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  1. Part Four: Fallible Chapter Twelve "John, are you OK? You haven’t touched your food," Meghan asks from across the table. I have been staring at my food for the last hour but I can't eat it. I look up at her and shrug. Aaron looks at me, he doesn't say anything. "When are you guys going back home?" I ask. "We leave in a couple of days," Meghan answers. "I need to go back home. I need to go back tomorrow morning." "John, are you sure that's a good Idea?" asks Mel. "I need to Mel," I tell her. "I can't go with you, John,” says Mel. "I know. It's okay; you have to go to school anyways." "I could go with you," Aaron offered. I smiled "I'd like that." It came back to me. Just a little memory, but I knew it was enough. I held his hand. Michael needed me and I was there. I waited next to him. I was there when he passed. Tears welled up in my eyes. "I need to go to Michael’s grave." Mel began to cry. I walk over to her, hugging her. "I'm sorry Mel, I'm so sorry." I held her tight. "I loved him so much." How could a person do what Helene did? How could a person destroy the life of another over a school election? She had taken and crushed everything and everyone around me. Yet, from that came everything I have now, and I know that somewhere out there Craig could be waiting for me. "Meghan, can you please stay here with Mel?"I ask. "Sure, can I talk to you for a second?" "Let's go to the living room. Grab a chair; I don't have furniture in there yet." I sit facing the window. You can see the glow of the city. I always looked out at the city from here. "Nice view," Meghan says, joining me. "Thank you." "I wanted to talk to you about Craig." "I figured as much." "He needs you. I know everybody is saying that you should wait before you speak to him, but I am his best friend. I know what he needs more than anything, and that's you." "My father said I should wait until he is ready for me." "He will never be ready. He needs you to be ready. He never talks to anyone anymore. I have to literally force words out of him. He dropped out of school and works as a dishwasher at some dive. He won't tell me where he went for so long." "Wow. This is all my fault." "No it's not, John. When you go back, please make sure you see him. Even if he doesn't want to see you." "I will Meghan." "Listen; there is also something you should know. I know it's not something you want to hear right now, but I have to tell you. He has another guy." I melt as she tells me this. "I know for a fact that he doesn't like this guy. He just needs to believe in the fact that he still has you. This guy is not good for him." "Another guy?" "John no, listen!" "I can't break up his relationship. I don't even know if I love him. I love him." I smile "I love him don't I?" It feels right to say those words. A vision of me holding his hands at the edge of a cliff comes to mind and my heart aches. "Yes, you do. That isn't a relationship. He's the love of your life, and you are his. When you had your accident, he used to play love songs for you 'cause he knew you like them. When you woke up and didn't remember him, he thought he’d lost you forever." "I remember a song. I just . . ." I fight back the tears. "John, just remember; you guys were meant for each other. All these obstacles, they are just there to make you stronger." The next morning Aaron meets me at the airport. I bought two first class tickets. "You know you don't have to come if you don't want to?" "It's okay; I want to. Anyways, I want you to get to know me again." "I'm scared." "Don't be, dude. You’re among friends." Our flight is going to take an hour.” You know, I have never taken a first class flight." "Me either. I drove here when I moved." "Wow, how long did that take?" "About four hours." "Hey, you should go visit David when we get home." "Sure, I want to see him and how is Sheryl?" "Oh, they broke up man." "Does she still Live back home?" "Yeah, she’s a teacher at the local middle school." "Mel said I introduced you to Meghan. How did that happen?" "We had a party for you once. It was a birthday party." "Yeah, I just read up to the part where Craig surprised me." "The next morning you introduced us over breakfast." "I want to have everything I had before. My memory is coming back little by little." "John, that's great." "But it scares me. Every time I remember something, I feel worse about what I’ve done to everyone since my accident." you guys are my friends. I owe everyone an apology. I was a jerk, and you guys still stood by me. Especially Mel.” “John no one blames you,” he says, holding my shoulder. "I want to ask you something, Aaron." "What's that?" "Why were you such a good friend to me?” "Because you were the only other person I had that had gone through the same situation as I had." He's right. He and I have had more than our fair share of missiles. "But I was such an asshole." "You know, I used to be mad at you a lot. I mean I never thought you would do it too you seemed like such a nice guy, and you were but at Lakeside it's survival of the fittest. My anger melted away when I heard what Helene had done to you." "I would be mad at me too. I was such a jerk." I smile and reach for my book. There I was on the cover, confetti everywhere. I looked so happy. "I thought I had it all." "So did I, but I am so much happier now." "I am reaching for that,” I tell him before he dozes off and I found myself lost in my book again. Chapter Thirteen From Hallway Hero Maybe life could get easier after all. Maybe it was all worth it. I had him back, yet I couldn't shake the feeling that, maybe, the worst wasn't over. Unfortunately, I was right. Things would take a sinister turn and, at the center, would be Helene Mayer. I grabbed him and planted a big kiss on his mouth. "Hey, you can have him all to yourself later. Right now we need a picture," Mel said, breaking our lip lock. "Hi John," said Michael. He didn't look good. He tried to smile, but I knew that just being there was asking a lot from him. I hugged him. "You know I wouldn't have been mad if you stayed at home. I could have come to you." "John, I needed to be here. I couldn't pass on my best friend’s birthday. It could be my last." His words chilled my bones. I didn't know how right he was. "Don't speak like that Michael. It scares me." "Come on, John, they are going to take a picture." I held his arm and we walked outside. Mel pulled Michael in her direction. Craig motioned for me to come next to him. I quickly placed myself next to him and gave my biggest smile. Aaron took the picture and we all went back inside. "That's going to be an awesome picture," Aaron said. "Make sure everyone gets a copy," I said. I held Craig's hand; I couldn't let him go again. Somebody put some music on and everybody began to dance, with the exception of Michael and Mel. They snuggled together by the fire. "Would you like to dance Mister Williams?" Craig asked me. "No. I have a better Idea." I pulled him into an empty room. I locked the door and, without thinking, pulled his face to mine. "I've waited a long time for this." He tasted so sweet. I could say that, at that moment, everything was perfect, that everything in the universe fell into place, but it wouldn't be enough to explain it. I was floating. We kissed so hard that my lips began to hurt. I wasn't breathing and I couldn't care less. "John... I can't... Breathe." "Wow! I needed that." "Yeah. I think I'm going to get a drink." I watched him walk away. I’d gotten him back for a third time. The Gods had decided that we really were meant for each other. This remarkable guy; he was mine and I was his. Could it be more perfect? Could it be that the bad times were finally over? "Here, have a drink." "You know I never thought I would get you back." "I thought I had lost you again. When I saw you kissing that guy, I lost it. I couldn't believe that you would do that." "I never told you about Dominick." I pulled him to a bench at the window. "Yeah, I figured it out somewhere along the way. It took a lot of nagging from Meghan, but here I am." We kissed again, but he stopped. "Wait, turn the lights off. It looks cool watching the snow fall. The porch lights make the snow glow." I turned off the light and sat next to him. "See, it looks awesome." He was right; it was so beautiful. Having him there, to watch it with, made it that much more special. It was perfect. I was here with the love of my life. I fell asleep in his arms. I woke up to the smell of Breakfast. "You are cute when you sleep," Michael said, waking me up. "Wuh?" I said turning to him. "Be quiet; you'll wake up Craig. Why don't you come and eat breakfast with me? I want to talk to you." I groggily followed him out to the kitchen. David and Sheryl were making Breakfast. Meghan was having a conversation with Mel. Aaron stumbled into the room behind me. "mm. What smells good?" Meghan quickly looked up at him. The attraction was clearly there. "Meghan this is Aaron." "Hi Aaron," She said, extending her hand. She was blushing. So was he. "Uh, hi Meghan," he said as he took her hand. "John, grab a plate and follow me to the den," Michael said. I did as he asked. "What did you need to talk about?" "Well, I wanted to ask if you would help me with something." "What's that?" "I need you to be my best man." I wanted to cry. I wanted to smile. I wanted to do something. "I already asked her. She said yes." "Then I have no choice, do I?" He hugged me. "I want her to have the right to be by my side. That way my parents can't say anything." Now I understood. It was the saddest thing in the world. I began to cry. My heart broke for them. "I will be there for you every step of the way. I swear." "Thank you John." How could I have been so selfish? I was so worried about me that I never stopped to notice how other people were doing. Mel walked over and sat next to us. David and Sheryl followed. Meghan and Aaron stayed in the kitchen. They were having a good conversation. I thought I heard him invite her to a concert. "So how did it go?" asked Sheryl. "Yeah, spill it," added Mel. "Guys, there is nothing to say. I have him back that's all." "Oh, come on. When I woke you, you looked like you were in bliss. He didn't look that disappointed either," Michael said as Craig walked in. "He better not be," said Craig. "Grab some breakfast” I said, motioning towards the kitchen. A few of the other kids sat around us. This felt good. I had all my friends, new and old, all together in one place. I had Craig. And so it began; that part of our lives that I would always remember as our turning point. Things would change; some things for the better and other things for the worse. As we drifted into the future, I was comforted knowing I had my friends to go through it with me. Michael and I began making preparations. He was so eager. He wanted it to happen fast. Inside, I understood more than anything. Yet, the more he did the worse I felt. He didn't have a lot of time left. I made sure he got what he wanted. "We can have it in my backyard. Mom and dad said it was okay," I said as we walked into the tailors. "Yeah, that would be great. I just want something simple, but it has to be perfect." "I know, Michael. I know." The tailor measured us for tuxes. It was only a week away. We had everything planned. Meghan, David and Sheryl offered to take care of the decorating and catering. Michael’s band offered to play at the reception. Everyone wanted to help. My father got a license so he could marry them. Michael’s parents were not to know about the wedding until after. We kept everything secret. "I can't wait," said Mel, as we picked up her dress. She had asked me if I could be best friend and bridesmaid. I agreed. They were my friends. My best friends. "Hey, it's only a day away." "I know, but the faster we get married . . ." she stopped there. "Mel, are you okay?" "John, I just want to thank you for being there. I mean you always have been. You took me in when my mother left. You made sure we’ve had all the time we needed, and here you are being bridesmaid and best man." "Mel, you guys are my friends. I have to do this." "Thank you John," she said as we pulled up to my house. "I'll see you tomorrow. Don't have too much fun tonight, okay?" We had planned a small bachelor party for Michael; nothing big, just a dinner with his friends. "I won't. I'll see ya tomorrow." We had a great dinner. We shared old stories and a few laughs. By the end of the night we were exhausted. I drove everyone home, one by one. Michael was the last one. He had fallen asleep. "Michael. Come on, wake up. We are almost at your house." "John, I need to go to the hospital," he barely choked out. "Michael, this isn't funny," I yelled. "John, take me to the hospital." I pulled a u-turn and headed toward the hospital. I picked up my cell phone and called ahead. They would be waiting at the emergency doors. "Michael, speak to me. I need to know that you are still there." "I'm here John." It all happened so quickly. By the time I made it to the hospital they were waiting for me outside. I watched as they put him on a stretcher and disappeared down a hall. I called Mel but she didn't answer. An hour later, I was allowed to come in. He didn't look good. "Hey bud," I said as I sat next to him. Tears were already running down my cheeks. I held his hand. "I need you to do something." "What's that?" "Call your father and Mel. I don't have long. I need him to marry us." I did as he asked. My father said he'd come as soon as he could. It was too late. Michael was getting worse. "I'm not going to make it," he said. "I need you to tell her I love her." "I will." "John. Thank you." It was the last thing he said. I held his hand as he died. My shirt sleeves were wet from the tears. I walked out of the room. His parents came in as I walked out. They scowled at me. I was lost. This couldn't happen, not like this. Then I saw her. Mel was running towards me. She had her wedding dress on. She stopped when she saw my eyes. She broke down right there. "No John! NO!" she screamed. I couldn't take it. I fell to my knees. I crawled over to her. "Mel, I'm sorry." I said as I embraced her. "He can't be gone. Everyone leaves me." "No Mel, I'm here. I'll always be here." Things just went by slowly after that. It was almost as if time had stopped. We weren't allowed to attend his funeral. His parents were adamant, even after my parents had pleaded with them. I watched Mel closely for the next few days. It was as if she wasn't there. I mean, she was there physically but not there mentally. I had my parents switch her to my school so I could be closer to her. I made sure to be there after every class and after school. At times she would just break down. She cried herself to sleep every night. I was afraid of leaving her alone. Some days she seemed fine. She would almost smile. Other days she was cold. She showed no emotion and stayed away from everybody. I couldn't blame her; I just tried to be there for her. As the weeks passed, I began to fall into the same depression. I barely talked to anyone. I stayed away from everyone. I needed to just be away. Craig understood and gave me my space. Some of my teachers noticed my desolation and called up Craig's father at my old school. Mr. Peterson asked me to meet him in his office. The school looked the same, yet I had a feeling of foreboding. "Are you sure you want to go in there again?" Craig asked as we made it to the front door. "Yeah I'm ready." I took a deep breath and I walked in. The main hallway was empty. No dream team, no cheerleaders, and no preps. We made our way down the hallway. It seemed so peaceful. We had made it halfway down the main hallway when the bell rang. The masses of students poured out of their classrooms. We tried to make it to the administration offices, but were caught up in the crowd. Some of the kids recognized me and began to whisper. Helene saw me and gave me a diabolical smile. She formed her hand in the shape of a gun and pulled the Imaginary trigger. Chapter Fourteen I try to choke back my tears as we make it through the terminal. It hurts inside. I just wanted to break down right there. It took every thing I had not to. Aaron looked at the chapter I read and frowned. He gave me a hug. "You know I feel like I should remember these things, but I don't. I just remember bits and pieces now, and it’s killing me," I tell Aaron before we make it to the gate. "Well John, you can't expect everything to come back at once." He's right, I know it. But after reading all of this how could I not want to remember everything? I remember being beside Michael but that's where that particular memory ends. "Excuse me, are you Jonathan Williams?" I turn to see a teenage boy that looked to be about eighteen years old. He had an accent I couldn't quite place. "Yes. Can I help you?" "Would you please sign my copy? I love your book; it helps to have something like this to read," he says quickly, holding out a heavily worn paperback copy. I think it is the international version of my book as the cover is different. "It helps a lot when you are . . . you know." I understand. "Sure, but I'll do you one better. You can have my copy,” I told him, grabbing my hard-cover copy from my bag. "What's your name?" "My name is Simon." I write him a little note on the inside before I gave him the book. "Where are you from?" "I'm from South Africa." "Wow, that's a ways off," I say, suddenly connecting his accent. "Yes. I'm here as an exchange student. Thank you so much." "Oh you're welcome. This is Aaron. He's in my book." Aaron shakes his hand, and we say good bye. "He was cute," I tell Aaron as we make it out to baggage claim. When I saw him show his friend the copy I had given him. That made me feel better. "Yeah, it's crazy how many people have read your book." “Remind me to call my agent." My father and mother offered to pick us up, but I decided to rent a car instead. It makes it easier to visit Craig without my parents knowing. "OK, first I need to go to Michael's grave. I want to put flowers here." " There's a shop over there. Let's see if they have flowers." "After we go to the grave, I need to go see Craig." "Wait a minute. You were supposed to wait?" "I need to see him. I know he needs me." "Alright, but if I take you to where he lives, and you do not like what you see, I won’t be held responsible." " Aaron, Thank you." I asked Aaron to stay in the car. What I have to do, I need to do alone. I sat before his head stone and poured my heart out. “I would have been here sooner. I was a little, um, delayed. I miss you Michael. I didn't do what you asked me; I couldn't get her there in time." I begin to cry. "I brought you some flowers. I know. I know everyone brings you flowers but it seemed like the right thing to do." "Actually, nobody brings him flowers," says somebody behind me. I turn to see who it is. The man standing there looks familiar but I can't place him. "Not even his parents," the boy says approaching me. "Do I know you?" "Yeah we've met once or twice. I was Michael's friend. My friends and I, we used to, um, yell shit at you every time you walked by us." "Oh," I stood up to leave. "Hey, you don't have to go. I'm not going to yell shit at you now. Actually, I want to thank you. My name is Drew," he says extending his hand. “I wish you and I could have met under better circumstances.” I took his hand and it suddenly dawns on me. Drew used to play with Michael in his band. “You played with Michael?” He nods, smiling as he arranges the flowers. “Why, would you want to thank me?" "For being there for Michael. I heard your conversation. I wish I had been as close to him as you were." "I miss him." "Me too." He looks uncomfortable. "Hey, I read your book. It's good stuff." "Thank you." "If I knew things were that bad for you, I would have taken it a lot easier. Do you still talk to Mel?" "Yeah." "I have something of his that she might like to have." "What's that?" "He had a journal. It's filled with entries and shit." "Really?" "Yeah. I found it at my house. He must have left it before he died," he says, reaching into his bag for it. "Here, maybe you could give it to her." "I will." He hands me the leather-bound journal. I want to open it, but I can't. I know deep down it is meant for only one person; it's meant for Mel and I can't violate that. "Thank you," I tell him as he starts to walk away. "Hey, maybe we could get a cup of coffee sometime." "I'd like that," he says and then left. I say my goodbye to Michael and walk back to the car. Something about Drew isn't right and I felt it. Deep down I know he knows more about Michael than I can ever know. Aaron smiles as I get in the car. "You ready?" I tell him about Drew as we near Craig's place. "So let me get this straight. Michael had a journal that, apparently, no one knew about." "Yeah, and his friend Drew gave it to me so I can give it to Mel." "And you aren't going to read it?" "No, it's for Mel." We pull up to Craig's Driveway. My Stomach is doing flip flops. He is in there, probably with another guy. "Here goes nothing." I step out of the car and make it up the path to the door. I take a deep breath before I push the doorbell. There is music playing, but no one answers. I look back at Aaron. He points towards the side of the house. I step of the porch and I walk around. The music is getting louder. It is also apparent that two people are arguing. "Fine, I'm leaving!" "I want all your shit out of here by the time I get back!" says a deep menacing voice. I begin to walk back to the car. I don't want to be a part of this. "Who the fuck are you?" I turn to see a tall guy. He looks angry. "I'm John, Craig's friend." He gives me look, measuring me with his eyes. "Is he here?" I ask. "Yeah, he's back there." "Thank you." I step around him. He, however, decides that he isn't going to leave. He follows me. In the back of the house Craig is Throwing Stuff out of a window. "Craig, what the fuck is this? Now you are bringing your boy toy friends over too?" "I thought you were . . ." Craig stops when he sees me. "John," he mouths. He quickly begins throwing stuff out the window again. He doesn't look like the Craig I know. His eyes are sullen and he had a rough look about him. "Craig, are you going to tell me who this fuck is?" "He was the love of my life. Something you fucking failed to be." The words cut through me. I was the love of his life? "Well, well, well. This is the famous Jonathan Williams," says the tall guy. I look at him. He is intimidating. He is definitely older than Craig and I, maybe in his thirties. The thought of Craig and him together makes me sick. "Maybe I should come back later," I tell them, but the tall guy holds my shoulder. "No, why don't you join us for a cup of coffee?" he says with his eyes undressing me. "No, I think he should go," Craig yells down. I don't feel comfortable there I feel dirty. I knew that it was going to bother me seeing him with another man, but this just destroys me inside. I turn to leave. I see the tall guy glare at Craig. I look at Craig. His icy eyes just stare at me. "Call me at my parents house Craig,” I tell him and I leave. When I reach the car, Aaron is talking on his cell phone. "It's David. He wants to see us later." I nod and get in the car where I exhale a long breath. I never thought that seeing him again would hurt so much. I want to scream. This is all my fault. The tall guy watches us from the front door as we pull out of the driveway. “I see you've met Trevor,” Drew says when we leave the neighborhood. "Is that his name?" "Yeah." "How could they be dating? He's obviously in his thirties." "Try early forties." I turn my gaze towards Aaron. “No." "That's why we told you to wait. They were bound to break up eventually. They hate each other. We were hoping that he could tell you about this himself." "But Meghan said he needed me now." "Well, Meghan thinks that he won't leave Trevor until he knows he can have you." I understand. Meghan wants me to bring the old Craig back. "He looks so different." "That he does my friend. He's grown up. He's old now." In my old neighborhood, Lakeside the houses are huge cookie cutter masterpieces. Every one has an expensive car in the driveway and highly manicured lawns. Every thing is based on the image that everything is perfect. "Can I ask you a question?" "What's that John.?" "Why did we put ourselves through that bullshit?" "Well, when you're a teenager, superficial things matter more than anything. We learned our lessons though." "I hope so," I say as we pass Eddie's house. "What ever happened to Eddie?" "Well when his parents found out about him being gay, they sent him to that place they sent Craig. It didn't work of course; he became a gay activist in Washington." "Wow." "Yeah. He keeps praising your book as having given him the inspiration. It makes me want to puke. He's such an asshole. I know for a fact that he's still out there trying to rape people." he says as we pull into my parents’ driveway. There is a group of reporters interviewing my parents. "What's going on?" I ask. All of the reporters run over to me. "Do you think that it's safe for you to be here?" asks one reporter. "Will you hide?" asks another. "I don't know what you’re talking about," I say into one of the microphones they shove in my face. "Helene Mayer has escaped," says a third reporter.
  2. Part three: Wait Chapter Nine He ran away from me. I ran after him but I couldn't reach him. He just ran faster. I ran until I couldn't run anymore. "Michael!” I yelled. He disappeared. "Come’ John. Come for me," he yelled, somewhere ahead. I was out of breath and I was sweating. I began to cough and doubled over. From behind, somebody grabbed me. "Got ya," the person said. "No!" I screamed. "John! Wake up. Wake up." I wake to see Mel standing before me. She looks worried. "John, how long have you been having nightmares?" "I haven't. This one seemed so real. I was chasing Michael, but he got away from me. Then somebody grabbed me from behind and said ‘gotcha.’" Mel sits next to me. "I looked at your book. Why did you stop at the part where Charlie hit you?" "I had to take a break. It's exhausting. All the information needs to be processed in my mind." "Like Craig?" "Yeah, Like Craig." I want to see him. I need to apologize to him.” I always push him away. He used to call every day, but I never answered the phone. Maybe he was just trying to be there for me. "Well John, that is going take a lot from you." "He's mad at me, isn't he?" "No. Well, let's just say he's a little disappointed in you." "I was such a jerk to him. I guess I'd be mad also." "No honey, he's not mad. When you had your accident he was at the hospital for days until they let him see you. When he saw that you didn't remember him his heart broke. He went away for a while. He called you every day, and sent you letters, but you never answered him. When he got back he just wasn't the same, you see. He was like a totally different person. He wouldn't talk to any of us. Meghan had to literally break down his door to get him to speak." "I did this." "Honey, trust me, he doesn't blame you. He understands. He just needs to believe you’re there for him too." I am overwhelmed. Every day I learn something new; a new tidbit of information that throws my whole life out of whack. Hearing about Craig makes me feel guilty. I know deep down I had done this. "Do you think they like Italian food? It's the only thing I know how to make well." "They?" I ask. "Yeah. Meghan is bringing her boyfriend. You know, you introduced them." "Who is her boyfriend?" "His name is Aaron." "And how do I know him?" I ask as she smiles. "I need to go to the store for some stuff you don't have. Like food. Do you know where the closest market is?" she completely avoiding my question. She does that quite often. "You don't have to leave just order it from the store. They deliver." "God, you are lazy. I never asked you to come with me, just where the store is." "It's two blocks south. Just ask Randy to point you in that direction." "Wow, what a gentleman." "I just don't feel like going out." "It's alright John. I was just teasing ya." After Mel leaves, the dream drifts into my thoughts again. It felt so real. I knew that voice. "Gotcha," It repeats over and over in my mind. How do I know that voice? The phone rings, and knocks me out of my thoughts. "Hello." No one answers. I just heard hard breathing on the other end. "Who is this?" Again no one answers. This happened at least once a week. I hung up and dialed my parents’ number. The phone rings three times before my father picks up. "Hello." "Hi dad; it's John." "Hey, I just saw you on the television. Mom taped it. You were great." "Thanks dad. Um, I have a question to ask you," I said, in hopes that he can give me an answer. "Go ahead, John." "Do you know Craig's phone number?" He's quiet for a while. When he finally does speak he asks me a question himself. "John, are you sure you are ready for that?" "What do you mean?" "Well he's been through a lot. I think that maybe you should wait. Listen, I know that's the last thing you want to hear, but trust me son. You’d do good to wait." My father is somebody I can always trust. I know that whatever he said was right. " I guess you’re right, dad." "You know, we are always here for you. Remember that." "I know dad, thanks," I said. I want to talk to Craig more than anything and all I find is another wall blocking me. "Hey, how’s your new book coming along?" "To tell you the truth, I haven't written in a while," I tell him. "Oh well, that's OK. I think you have a lot on your plate right now. Just ride it out and then go back; things will pour out of your mind." "Thanks dad." "You’re welcome. Do you want to talk to mom?" "No, that's OK. I'll call tomorrow. I have to fix up the place a little." "I'll see ya," he said before hung up. The phone rang again. "Hello." "Hi john," said a cold voice on the other end. "Who is this?" "Don't you know?" "How would I know who this is?" I answer nervously as her voice scares me. I had heard from another author that he had been stalked by a fan. "You said you started to read the book. I saw you on TV. You said that." "Who is this?" "Oh, don't act like you don't know me John! I know you know me. Be careful; I might just come back and get you again. You ruined my life twice, John. It won't happen again." "Helene?" "Oh, now you know me." "You are crazy!" I yelled. "Yeah, that's what they say," she says, seemingly amused. "Helene, you need help. Don't call here anymore." "John, I am close. Just a matter of time before. . .," I never got to hear her finish. Mel disconnected my phone. I didn't even hear her come in. "She can’t do anything John. Don't worry about her." "I wonder how she got my number.” “She must have found it on the Internet," she says, handing me a grocery bag. "I mean, she's known to be very informed." "That's scary." "Hey, why don't you go read and I'll fix dinner." I walk away with a chilling thought: What if she really can get to me? Chapter Ten From Hallway Hero You know, you are never really sure what you can do, until you are tested. I thought about that when I saw him on the ground, asking me to stop. When he hit me everything I had been holding inside concentrated and exploded. He only hit me once before I went at it; punch after punch until he went down. When he asked me to stop, I got angrier. Every time I hit him I tasted revenge. "John, stop, please," he yelled. "No!" I yelled before I kicked him. "You want to fucking hit me." "John, please stop; I'm sorry," he said, trying to move away. There were a few students watching and I could see the principal heading our way with a security guard. "Fuck you!" I yelled, louder this time, before I kicked him again. I walked away and headed out of the school. I was angry. I wanted to kill him. I was angry with myself. I had never been that angry in my life. I got into my car and drove to the cliff. My cell phone was ringing, but I didn't answer it. Right as I arrived at the cliff, my cell rang again. It was Megan, but I didn't want to talk to her. I walked over and stood on the ledge. This place was my sanity. "Hey," Craig said from behind me. I turned towards him and broke down in his arms. "I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take it." He just held me tighter and let me cry. "I know John, its OK; I'm here." The next day at school I was escorted to the principals office. I saw Charlie sitting outside. He had a black eye and several cuts on his face, along with a split lip. He looked like shit. He scowled at me. "What, you want more?" "Fuck you, John," he yelled back before the security guard pulled me into the principals office. The principal was mad, and I could tell by the look on his face that his anger was directed straight at me. "John I do not know what to do with you. What did you promise me?" I just stared at him. "You promised me that you wouldn't fight again. I can’t have that in my school, John. I have to suspend you. I wouldn't have done it, because it was provoked, but you left the school and that's an automatic suspension. John, I really thought you were better than that. I am disappointed." To hear my boyfriend’s father say that about me hurt. I guess I let my pain get the better of me. "Now leave, and don't come back until next week." I glared at Charlie as I left his office. I hated him. I visualized my hands around his neck, strangling him. I spent the next week at home. My parents had decided that I couldn't leave the house. Craig wasn't allowed to come over, because he was also suspended. Meghan brought my homework to me everyday after school. My father took me outside one afternoon after dinner. He wanted to talk. I was nervous because my father never did this. "John, don't tell your mother, but I am proud of you. I thought that, just because you were gay, you couldn't defend yourself. I was afraid you would be hurt. When your school called me to tell me you had been in a fight, I was afraid. I was ready to go bust some heads, but when I heard what you did, I was ready to cheer. I'm glad that you are a man, and I am glad that you are my son." "Aw dad, you’re going to make me cry." "Well, maybe three quarters of a man," he said, then laughed as he hugged me. "Hey." "You’re my boy and, from what I hear, Craig can also throw a mean punch. I guess I really don't have to worry about you," he said, and then we walked back inside. I loved my parents, and things like what my father just said made me feel like one of the luckiest guys on earth. My mother just smiled at me when she saw me getting along with my father, like she knew I was lucky to have them. My parents were great weren't they? I wondered how they got so cool. On the second day of my suspension Mel came to my door. She nervously waited until I opened the door. "Oh John," she said, reaching for me. She stopped when she realized she didn't have that privilege anymore. "What do you want, Mel?" "I came to talk." I really didn't want to talk to her but something told me that I should. "Why? Mel, we aren't friends anymore and I don't think we can be." I stopped when I saw Michael, outside, sitting on the hood of his car crying." "What happened?" "I was suspended," she said uncomfortably. "Why?" "I tried to kill Helene." I smiled at the thought of Mel trying to choke Helene. As much as I hated them, I had to admit that they were trying to be my friends again. "Come in, Mel," I looked at Michael and signaled him to come in too. "So why did you try to kill Helene?" "She told Charlie about you and that guy." My face turned red. Helene had gone too far. "His name is Craig." "We just wanted to know if you were OK," Michael added. "I'm alright. I can fend for myself." "John, we wanted to apologize. We want things to be the way they were." "I accept your apology, but I don't think I," I stopped when I saw Michael about to cry again, and Mel looked like she was about to break also. I started to cry, and through my tears I squeezed out, "I miss you, I really do, but I cant." Mel walked out the door. Michael just stood there looking at me. "You can't do this John. Mel is lost. She blames herself for what you went through. She cries herself to sleep at night because she knows what you have to deal with." "Michael I can't. If I do, I lose," I said, a little surprised at the honesty. "If you do, you gain friends. You gain friends who would stand by you; friends that you will never lose again. We need you John. She needs you." To tell you the truth, I needed them. They were real friends, but the fact that they betrayed me for selfish reasons still stung in my mind. Would I have done the same thing if I was forced to do it? I probably would have, but the fact that they tried to make things right spoke for the type of friends they are. "Wait here a moment," I said, as I headed out of the house. I ran down the street where I saw Mel walking. "Mel, wait up," I yelled but she just kept on walking. I ran up until I caught up to her. "Mel, I'm sorry." She looked at me for a long time. "John, I am poor. I'm poor. Helene told everyone because I wouldn't help her break you and Craig up." "It's alright, Mel, It's okay," I said hugging her. "No John, It's not. You don't understand. I have nothing. I don't even have a house. Helene made sure of that. They kicked us out, and my mother left town with some guy and left me here alone." I wanted to go and kill Helene. "Mel, you can stay with me. Does Michael know?" "No, he doesn't. I couldn't bring myself to tell him. He doesn't know anything." "You know, Mel, you have to let him in." She nodded, and we walked back hand in hand. "He really likes you. I can see it in his eyes, and I know you like him back." They gave each other the same Gaze Craig and I gave each other. She smiled "I like him John; I think I'm in love with him but, with everything that's been going on, I just couldn't do anything." "It's alright now, Mel. Let’s go tell Michael." My parents were furious about the situation and notified the cops about Mel's mother. They set her up in one of the guest rooms, and welcomed her with open arms like she was their daughter. They were awesome. My relationship with Craig couldn't be better. Deep inside I felt that, without him, I was not complete. I needed to do one more thing to make it right. I opened the door to his office. He was on the phone, but he motioned me to sit. I waited patiently and nervously for him to finish. "So John, what can I do for you," he said coldly, while reading the papers he picked up from the desk. "I need to speak with you about some things." He stopped reading and looked at me. "Go ahead." "I want to apologize for breaking that promise. I need to feel that you are I are OK, sir, and not just because you are my principal. I want to think of you as a friend and as family. You see, you brought Craig back into my life and I want to thank you for that." He walked around his desk and hugged me. "John, we are good. I already think of you as family. Craig never smiled before you guys got together. He was afraid of being himself, because of what that school did to him. John, I'm glad you're in his life because, when you are with him, he is himself. He needs you John." "I know, sir." He smiled at me, and I smiled back; it felt good. We were square, and it made my relationship with Craig valid. Craig and I spent several afternoons at the cliff just enjoying watching the waves hit the rocks. He still counted the time in-between wave crashes. "Do you think we'll last for ever?" Craig asked me. "I don't know. I just hope we enjoy the time we do spend together." He seemed to take what I said to heart, and we sat in silence as the sun set. The drive home was also silent, and we kissed as we reached my house. "Someday we'll be old, and I hope we'll still be together. I hope you love me as much as I love you." "You know I love you. Someday that might change but, at this moment, that isn't likely," I said. He nodded and then he kissed me again. I smiled as he drove away. Life was perfect. Little did I know, at that time, that Helene was brewing her most vicious plot. Michael and Mel got closer and saw each other more and more as the weeks flew by. Craig and I were inseparable again. Megan was like a pillar of strength between all of us. She and Mel also got close. The school situation was getting tougher for all of us. The dream team now had their hands full tormenting us all except Eddie. He seemed to hold back when they all yelled at us. They even started on Meghan. Michael seemed to take it the hardest, and not just about himself. Every time they would taunt Mel about being poor, he got angry. I would try to calm him down, but it was of no use. Eventually he broke. He started skipping school and just avoiding everyone, and that took a toll on all of us. Mel didn't know what to do. He would go out of his way to avoid her the most. We would go days without talking. Mel always came home crying. I tried to confront him about it, but he said he was fine. It came to the point where we just didn't see him anywhere but in school. I wondered if Helene had something to do with him being like this. I saw him sitting alone, by a tree, at lunch. "Michael," I called out as I approached him. "Hey," he answered back. "How have you been?" He didn't answer. I was getting annoyed. "You know, for somebody that used guilt to get me to be their friend again, you are not doing a good job of keeping up your end." "And what is that supposed to be, a joke John? You don't know anything." "How could I know if you don't tell me?" "I like her John, but I can't date her. My parents know, John. Helene made sure they knew she was poor. They don't want me near someone like that." "What about the punk kids in your band? You hang around with them don't you?" "No, John, I dropped out of the band." "Then tell me Michael. Make me understand. Tell me." He nodded as tears left his eyes. "John, I'm sick. I'm dying." The world stopped. My heart gave out. "How long have you known?" "A couple of weeks. I want to be there for her John. I need to be." I walked over to him and gave him a huge hug. "I don't want her to suffer over me, John. I don't want her to be in pain." It could never get better could it? We could never win. Chapter Eleven From Hallway Hero “I walk through the school, careless. I don't care anymore. Nothing matters. I am going to lose my best friend. I am losing a brother. Helene couldn't be happier. She got what she wanted. I’ve lost everything at her hands. It’s gotten so bad that people have stopped making fun of me. I am now considered one of the invisible kids. Nobody notices me. Few even consider me to be alive. In some ways, I am not alive. Not without you." I read the letter to myself before I put it in his locker. Craig had left me. Helene made sure of that. It was the final step she had to take. She had exacted her revenge. I am now nothing compared to her. She won, and I lost. I understood that, and I began to believe that I deserved it. Between Michael and Mel I felt like a third wheel. I felt like I was stealing the little time they had left. Who was I to do that? I took comfort from my parents. They were very supportive, and even offered to switch me to another school district. I looked at his locker one last time before I walked away. I won’t see him again. Helene had ambushed me. She sent Charlie to kiss me, as I was waiting for Craig at the end of the school day. He saw us, and broke up with me. He was so heartbroken I couldn't face him myself. I walked out to the car where my parents were waiting. I was going to start at a new school the next town over. Nobody at school was informed except Mr. Peterson. Mel and Michael were the only people who knew. I saw Craig as we drove away. He saw me, and then turned away. "Don't worry honey, he'll come back," my mother said. I couldn't find comfort in her words. "I'm sure deep down he knows it's not your fault." "I never told him about Dominick," I said to myself. I was in a new world; in a new state of mind. I made new friends easily at my new school. I was popular once again. This time, however, I didn't hide my true self from anyone. They knew. I made sure of that. I, however, was now a cold person. I could not care less about other people and what they thought of me. I was never happy, and I very rarely showed emotion that would suggest that I was even approachable. I guess you could say I sort of grew up; I survived Helene. I survived her malicious acts of deceit and revenge. She had won and completely erased my miserable existence from her life I made friends with David. We shared several classes. We became good friends. He was relentless about getting me to open up. I just couldn't; it was in the past and I had to keep it there. I got to know his girlfriend, too. Her name was Sheryl. We always hung out together. I told them nothing. As far as they were concerned, I was just this quiet gay kid who had little to say. They tried endlessly to hook me up with some people, but I was too gun shy to date. "You know, one day you will find a guy that will have you head over heals, and what then?" David asked. "Are you going to let him get away?" If he only knew. "I'm just not in that state of mind," I said hoping he would change the subject. "Well, when you think you are ready, let me know. I know a few guys that are ready to jump on your head, so to speak." Great. Now he was making me blush. At least he tried. Sheryl wasn't as discreet. She always made sure I talked to the other kids in class. She dragged me around like a rag doll, from class to class, making sure I knew all the cute guys. "John, if you don't meet them then they will never know you exist," she said as I protested. "I don't want to date any of these guys, Sheryl!" 'Nonsense. Everybody wants a hot date," she said, dragging me to the next guy. I went to a party that David threw at his house. I was quickly handed a cup of beer when I walked through the front door. "Here, John, you need this more than I do. Say hello to some people and please, for the life of me, have some fun tonight," David said, pulling me into the house. "Hey everyone, this is my good friend Jonathan. Say hello to him and make him feel at home. If you see his cup empty, please fill it," he yelled to everybody in his house. The house wasn't that big; I noticed when I tried to hide. He didn't have everything I had, but that never stopped him from having a good time. His friends all greeted me, one by one. I struck up a conversation with some kid I had met before, and watched as some other kids tried to play a game of drunken twister. I was enjoying myself. These people didn't come with the pretentious bullshit that the kids from my town came with; they were just having fun. I was sitting on a couch, a little buzzed, when some kid came and sat next to me. "Do you remember me?" he said, handing me another cup of beer. I looked closely at his face, but I didn’t recognize him. "No. Am I supposed to?" "We used to be friends, a couple of years ago. I was dropped from the pack because I was friends with some of the skater kids. I moved here about a year ago. It's Aaron, John." I knew who he was. He was, at one time, a close friend. "Aaron! Wow, I'm sorry I didn't recognize you." "Yeah, people never recognize you when you get better looking," he said jokingly. "But seriously, what brings you to good ole Dave's house?" "Well, that is a long story, one that I'm not sure I'm ready to share." "They don't know, do they?" I nodded. "I'm not sure how to tell them. I'm happy here. I can't change that, not now." "I understand more than you know. Trust me. I used to think that life only consisted of what I wore, what I drove, and who I talked to. That was until I met the new love of my life, skate boarding. Here life is different. I don't have to go out of town to skateboard." "I like it here," I said looking down at my cup. "But?" He added. "I miss them." "Look at those people out there. They all look happy, don't they?" I nodded. "Deep inside, some of them have real problems. Some of them are shit poor, but they fit in the group because they are truly good people." "I never understood that before." "At Lake Side there is nothing to understand. That will never change. They need to feel better than other people to give value to their miserable lives. Do you know why they kicked me out? Or should I say why Eddie kicked me out?" "Because you skated with the skaters." "Yeah, that was the piece of gossip they used. But it's not the reason they kicked me out. Eddie kicked me out because I was going to tell people that he tried to rape me. He waited for me in the locker room after practice. He was in the showers when I went in. He waited until I was done and then came up behind me. He tackled me, and then tried to get on me. I felt his dick near my ass and I panicked. I knew what he wanted. I somehow managed to turn over and I kneed him in the balls. I ran away." "Oh my God, did you tell anyone?" "No. I was too afraid. I ran home in my towel. I went straight to my room. I just lay in bed and cried myself to sleep. The next time I went to school they had spread that rumor. I no longer belonged. I was erased." I told him my story. He listened. I told him about Meatball and her cousin. I told him about Mel and Michael. I even told him about Craig and me. He just listened intently as I talked. I had never told anyone the complete story. At some point David and Sheryl came in and sat by me as I told him my story. I started to cry when I began to speak of Craig. Sheryl held me as I told them about how long I waited for him and how I lost him. "God, I'm sorry Dave. I didn't mean to ruin your party," I said, a little embarrassed. "John, honestly, I'm glad you felt you could tell us about your life." They all smiled and waved to me as Aaron walked me to my car. "Hey John, listen, if you ever need anybody to talk to call me, I'll always be here?" he said handing me a piece of paper with his phone number in it. "I mean it. I'd like to be a good friend to you again." "I will, Aaron, I will," I said, before I got in my car. I waved at him and drove away. It felt as If a huge weight had been lifted of my shoulders. I had told them everything, and they had understood me. They didn't walk away; they stayed and listened. I came to realize a few things at this new school. The first is that people can be nice. I came here thinking people were going to hate me, that they were going to treat me the same way people treated me at the other school. They didn't. The second thing I learned is that there is always something unexpected around the corner. Every day, here, something surprised me. Sometimes there are good things; sometime there are bad things. Aaron and I got real close. He and I were inseparable while at school. Our friendship was easy. We knew where we both stood, and we didn't need to hide anything from each another. You could say that it was boring, but I preferred it that way. Winter was coming. The nights were getting longer. I liked it that way. I love the snow. When I was younger Craig and I would spend the day sledding or having snow fights. Aaron invited me to go up to his cabin. He had invited a few of the kids from school, including Dave and Sheryl. Aaron and I started a fire as everyone started to arrive. Sheryl made hot chocolate for all of us. "Let’s play Truth or Dare," Aaron shouted, as we all crowded around the fire. "Who wants to go first?" I asked. Dave sighed, and volunteered. "Truth or dare?" Aaron asked. "Truth," Dave answered. "Is it true that you have a crush on John?" I began to blush, and he turned pale. "NO! I mean I don't have a crush on John," he yelled back rather quickly. "It's your turn now Aaron. Truth or dare?" he said forcedly." "I choose dare." "Okay, I dare you to run out in the cold, naked, and roll around in the snow." Aaron quickly stood up and took off his shirt, pants and shoes. He ran out the door. We followed him. "Here, I almost forgot these," he said, handing me his boxer shorts. I, however, wasn't paying attention to the shorts but to the massive thing between his legs. He got down on the snow and began to roll. I was transfixed by his dick as he turned his body left and right; left and right, left and right. "John, like what you see?" Sheryl whispered into my ear. "Uh huh," I mumbled back, as I began to drool. Aaron ran back in, snatching his boxers from my hand. He quickly dressed and we resumed the game. Sheryl ended up admitting to having had sex in her parents’ car, and I ended up eating three raw eggs that made another appearance as I threw them up. 'That's the last time I pick dare over truth," I said, as Aaron held my head up over the toilet. "Come on, where’s your sense of fun?" "I think it went down with the flush." "Listen, I have to go to the store and get some stuff. Do you want to come with me?" "Sure, I could use the fresh air." As I got in his car I noticed some apprehension coming from him. He nervously got in the car. He looked at me and quickly turned away. "Aaron, is there something wrong?" I asked. He turned to me, then leaned in close and kissed me. "I’ve never kissed a guy before," Aaron said to me as we finished. "I mean, not that I didn't want to, but I just couldn't until I met you," he said to me, as I woke up from the dream I was having. "I can’t believe you fell asleep in the car. That must have been a good dream," He said. "What? Why?" "Because you have a massive hard on between your legs," he said, as we pulled into the driveway. "Hey why don't you take a minute to get adjusted and then come in, OK?" I walked up to the door and heard whispering. Somebody said my name. I heard Sheryl say "Shut up, he's right outside." I didn't like this. They were talking about me. I burst through the door ready to bust some heads. "Surprise!" They all yelled at me. I was totally lost for words. "Happy birthday, John," said Sheryl as she hugged and kissed me. "Happy birthday John," a familiar voice said from behind me. I turned to see who it was. It was Craig.
  3. Part two: Bull’s Eye Chapter 5 "So you have yet to read the book, since your memory loss?" The host asks. "Well that was true until today. I began reading the book earlier this afternoon." "So I guess the question would be, do you like it?" I answered nervously, "It's got me hooked," "Wow. I think you have the experience every author would like to have." "You know, it's not everyday that you can relive your life through a novel. I consider myself lucky." "Thousands of people praise your book as a life inspiring force in their lives. How do you deal with that?" "I don't deal with it very well. I mean, it's not that I don't want to. I just don't know what to say to people that have read the book," I tell her. I begin to feel uncomfortable under the lights. "Okay. So when is your next book coming out?" she asked almost before I can finish answering her previous question. She isn't interested in what I have to say. I doubt that she had even read the book. "Well, my next book will be released in a few months. It's not autobiographical, but it is based on my experiences after my accident." "I hear that there are rumors of a movie adaptation. Are they true?" "Well, yes and no. I have yet to decide if I should go ahead with the adaptation." The audience begins to chant. “Movie. Movie." "It's safe to say that your fans want a movie," the host said. Somebody in the control booth flashes her a ten second card. "Well Mr. Williams, I hope that your next book does just as well as the first. Thank you for being on the show. Please come back." I shake her hand and wave at the audience who are still chanting As they went for a commercial break, I was escorted back to the green room. Mel is already there waiting for me. She looks stunning. She has her hair done and she is wearing a red dress. "Hi Mel," I tell her when she hugs me. "Wow John, you look great." "As do you." "Thank you." I lead her out of the green room. The host of the show thanks before we leave. The producer’s assistant leads us to the car that is waiting outside. I open the door for Mel and get in after. She gives the driver directions. "So?" she asks. "So what?" "Oh come on, I know you have questions. You just said that you began to read the book, on national TV for God’s sake.” I had questions, many of them. The first that stood out in my mind was about Michael. Why hadn't I seen him? Where is he? Why had my mother been so hesitant to tell me about him? Deep down, I know she has her reasons and that they are probably for the best, but that still doesn’t change the fact that I need to know. "Well I have a few." "A few? If were you I'd have thousands of them. Number one would be where is Michael?" I nod. "Well, I promised your mom I wouldn't say anything about that until you read the book." I sense sadness in her voice when she talks about Michael. She quickly changes the subject. "You’re going to love this place. It's a Thai food restaurant. Very fancy, but great food," she said enthusiastically. I Groan. "Why don't we just go get a burger?" I hate Thai food. It always gives me indigestion. "Wow, even with memory loss you never change. Okay John, let’s go get burgers." "Or, better yet, let's order Pizza at my place. We can talk in peace and I have a proposition for ya." She smiles at me. "Okay John, let’s do that. Why do I always get dressed for gay guys?" She gives the driver the new directions. He took us to my apartment building. I tip him as we get out of the car. I greet the night door man as he opens the door and head to the elevator. Mel presses seven. "Can you spend the night tonight?" I ask and she nods. "Can I ask you a question?" "Sure, what is on your mind?" "Why are you being so friendly? I mean, don't get me wrong John, I like you like this. Normally you're very distant with us, and sometimes just down right rude." I have to admit she got me there. I just feel that I need someone now. Maybe I am being selfish. I am tired of being alone. I moved away from everyone and, when they got too near, I just hid behind my amnesia. "I guess I felt like I didn't need anyone in my life. I was just tired of living a life based on what people told me I used to do. But now I want that all back. I want my old life back." "John you never lost us," she said, grabbing my hand. "You just alienated us. We were worried that you would never come back to us, especially your parents. We just waited and hoped that you would get your memory back, but I think that we finally settled on the idea that you wouldn't." "I never meant to alienate you," I said, hugging her. “To tell you the truth, I feel closest to you out of everybody. I feel like you and I share something deep." She begins to cry. "John, we do have a connection," she said, as she cleaned up her tears. She wants to tell me something, I wanted to push it out of her, but I can’t bring myself to do it. "Why don't you have any furniture?" Mel asks as I look through the pizza menus. "You would laugh at me if I told you." "No I won’t. Just tell me." "It keeps people from staying here too long." She bursts out laughing. "See I knew you would make fun of me." "Ha, I'm so. Ha ha he he, I'm sorry. It's just that's so stupid." "Alright, alright." "So you said you wanted to talk to me about something?" I ask. I turn to her and smile. "I have a proposition." "What's that handsome? Don't tell me you've gone straight," she says, holding my waist. "No, Mel, I want you to move in with me." An incredulous gaze falls upon her face. "Here? You want me to move in here?" "Yes Mel, I want you to move in here. I have plenty of space. There are two other bedrooms here that no one uses. Please say yes." She looks at me for a long time. Then she turns, heading to the bathroom. I follow and listen by the door as she weeps. I am about to knock to see if she was alright when the door bell rings. I walked over to the door and looked through the peephole. It was the pizza man. I pay for the food and I tip him quickly. I want to get back to Mel, she is still in the bathroom. I knock on the door. I receive no answer. "Mel? Are you Okay?" I can still hear her sobbing on the other end. "Mel you’re scaring me. Please come out." she opens the door. "John, I'm sorry. It's just that you used to always be so good to me. My emotions just got the better of me," she says before she gives me a hug. I know that she is hiding something. "I didn't mean to scare you john." "It's Okay Mel. Let's eat." We eat in silence Until I can’t take it anymore. "Mel why don't you just tell me what's on your mind?" "I was thinking that I could definitely move in," she says, dodging what is really on her mind. "Yeah?" I ask. "Only if you let me redecorate, because this apartment is depressing,” she says. "Hey, don't judge my taste,” I replied defensively. "You have no taste to judge," she says, grabbing a bread stick and tossing it at me. "Ha ha, I have the last bread piece!" she yells. I chase after her. She runs past my bedroom and into the living room. I tackle her and wrestled the bread stick out of her hand. "No I have the last bread stick," I yell as I take off. She cuts me off at the door, and tries to take the bread away from me. "You know you could be a gentleman." "Or you could be generous," I say and I pop the bread in my mouth. "One pizza slice left." She looks at the table, then at me. She takes off, reaching the kitchen before I can stop her. "You know, when we were in kindergarten, we used to wrestle. I used to do that just to get close to you," she says, blatantly trying to distract me. "Yeah, and?" "Well, I used to always win. You were wimpy and scrawny." she tries to grab the pizza. I cut her off pulling a swift maneuver. I nearly grab the pizza before she pulls me back and tosses me to the floor. She takes the pizza and took off once again. A vague memory of me being beaten at wrestling begins to form in my head. I remember hitting the ground as a girl giggled at me. She pointed her fingers and called another boy over who helped me up. "Shut up, ugly," he yelled at her. I laughed. Mel comes back still holding the pizza. “What’s wrong?" "Nothings wrong. I just remembered something." She sits next to me, taking a bite of the pizza. "What do you remember?" "I remember you bullying me, and a boy sticking up for me when we were young." "Oh my God, I remember that. It was in first grade. It was when you first met." She stops there and quickly gets up. "Mel, are you Okay?" "Yeah John I'm fine. I'm going to get ready for bed." "Okay Mel. But if you need anything I'm here." "Thank you John. I'll be there In a bit." I grab my book from the kitchen table. I walk over to my bedroom and lean back on the bed. Chapter Six From Hallway Hero There are hallways that we never use. These hallways are like memories we suppress. Yet, at some point, you have to use them. Like old memories they resurface. I never used to take some hallways because of the people that commune there. Some of them were old friends with whom I had lost touch or dropped because of rumors. Now I'm one of them. It all happened so fast. I lost my friends I lost my status, and I had to give up being president of my class by request of the principal himself. The rumor missile hit me alright, and it hit hard. It all started with one phone call. "Um hi," I was a bit confused. "How did you get my number?" "You know what, Jonathan?" "What?" "I like you." "I like you too, but it's kind of weird for you to be calling at two in the morning." "Well, you never called me." "I'm sorry Dominick, I've just been distracted. Um, listen, can I call you tomorrow?" "Yeah, sure; just don't forget." "Okay, Dominick." That was my second mistake. The first was talking to him after I found out he was her cousin. The third would be calling him the next morning. "Um, hi Dominick," I said. "Hey, what's up? I'm glad you called." "But you knew I was going to call." "I know, I was just joking. So are you free later today? I mean I really like you." "Dominick, I need to be honest with you. I’m dating somebody." "Wow, that's great, but I think you would be much better off with me." Now I was getting scared. "Dominick I don't like where this is going." "Well, I think you should go out with me instead." "No, Dominick, I don't think I'm gonna do that." Who the hell does he think he is? He's hot, but I liked Charlie better and I was very happy with what we were starting. "No? Jonathan I don't think you understand me. If you don't go out with me, you will regret it." "Why would I regret it?" "If you don't meet me today at three, at the park, I'll tell Helene you’re gay." I hate to be threatened. I hung up the phone and never thought anything more of it. I wasn't going to date some psycho. He called back I never answered. I spent a great weekend with Charlie. I even showed him the cliff and told him the story about Craig. He just listened, never interrupted, and when I was done he gave me a kiss. "I'll never leave you," he said. "I'll never leave either." "So, if he ever came back, would you leave me for him?" "No." He smiled and squeezed my hand as we watched the sun come up. It was a perfect morning. I wish we could spend the rest of our lives like that. I was beginning to fall in love with him. "Let’s go to my house," I said, and we both stood and walked away from the cliff. The old memories of the cliff died this day to make way for the new ones. That night, when he left my house, he said he loved me. And just hearing him repeat that in my head, over and over, made me excited and I couldn't wait to share it with the world and at that moment I genuinely believed that he loved me, but things were going to change. It started slow. They stared at me when I walked into the school. Some even giggled at me when I passed. I just thought it was the usual misfits talking about me. By the end of the week it was full blown. I walked to the Main hall where my crowd usually met. They were all talking and immediately shut up as I came up. "Hey guys what's up?" "No one said anything." I looked from face to face nobody would looked at me. "What's going on guys?" "You have some nerve," Amy yelled. "What?" "Get away from us, faggot," Eddie yelled at me. My eyes watered and I started to walk away. Something wet hit me as I made my way down the hall. I heard them laugh. I walked straight to the auditorium. When I entered, I headed straight for the front row, where I sat. I stared at the stage for a while as useless thoughts flew through my mind. I hated Dominick. I hated Helene. I heard the door open but I didn't have the motivation to turn around. "Hey asshole, how does it feel?" Meatball yelled. I just turned and faced her blankly. "Huh, asshole! How does it feel? I told you I'd get you back. My cousin told me, and I spread it as far as it would go." "Good; you’ve won. Now leave me alone." "No, I want to see you suffer. I want you to know all the things I've felt." "You want to know something Helene? When I tripped and the meatballs landed on you, I tripped on your book bag that you left out in the aisle, and as for them calling you that, they only did it because you yelled out the word meatball when it happened." "Well, maybe if you looked where you were walking, it would have never happened." "Helene, just drop it, Okay? You’ve won, and I lost all of my friends and I have no life." "Also Mel, Charlie and Michael; you’ve lost them too. I have to make sure you lose everything." "What?" "You heard me, you’ve lost them. I know Charlie is your boyfriend, and I know how much he treasures his status. So I told him I wouldn't tell, with the agreement that he wouldn't talk to you. Anyway, my cousin likes him and I think they would make a great couple." "You're a liar." "You sure, because Melissa and I go way back? Do you know she's poor? I mean dirt poor. Those clothes she wears are hand me downs her mother gets from my aunt. Oh, and do you know what Michael does on weekends? He plays in a band with the Punks. Yeah, the punks, and they hate you because he always spends time with you and not them. Do you see a pattern here? You see, I do my homework John, and up to now you were the cleanest son of a bitch, but you made a fatal mistake. You fucked with me. You fucked with me, over and over, until I just had enough." Helene was out of her mind. I hadn't done anything to her. I just lived my life, but I guess that was enough for that psycho bitch to hate me. "Fuck you!" "No, I don't think I ever want that from you, plus I'm not manly enough for you am I," she said, giggling before she walked away. "Oh, and so you know, I'm still not done with you. So expect more from me. Ha, ha, ha." I watched her leave before I composed myself and left the auditorium. The day went very slowly. I saw Michael, but he wouldn't look at me. Melissa was the same. As for Charlie, he just walked by me, laughing as the dream team made fun of me. That hurt more than anything. I walked straight into a bathroom and cried in the stall. I just wanted to be a small ant that they wouldn't notice. Everywhere I went somebody was talking about me. Meatball would make fun of me every chance she got. At some point, she even joined forces with the dream team to throw stuff at me during math class. I just drifted through school. It was easier than caring. It was as if I wasn't their friend the weekend before. My parents noticed a significant change in my mood, and started asking me every day what was wrong. "Honey we need to talk, Okay?" I nodded as my mother sat next to me. "One of your friend’s parents called me today." Oh no, not them too. "Mom, I can explain." "John, let me finish. I was told something that I couldn't believe. I couldn't believe that you would hide this from your parents." "Mom, I'm sorry. I'm sorry." "Honey, there's nothing to be ashamed of; we just wish that you would have told us sooner." "I know, but I was afraid." "It's Okay John. It's Okay now. Come on, your father and I are going to take you out to eat." They made me feel better but it wasn't Okay, not by a long shot. School just got worse. I would take alternate routes to avoid people and I would leave the school for lunch. Everywhere I went they knew. I ran into Dominick one day as I was walking away from the school. "Hey, John how's it going?" he asked, with a smug looked on his face. I wanted to bash it in right then and there. I wanted to make him hurt as much as I had hurt, but I just kept walking. He ran up to me and grabbed my arm. "I told you, you would regret not going out with me. I transferred here just so you could to see me here every day with Charlie. He's so sweet. Did you know he said he would never leave me?" I snapped. I wanted to kill him and my fist clenched, ready for it. "Leave me alone Dominick," I yelled, as visions of his head turning purple as my fists squeezed tight around his neck. "What? Are you going to hit me? I'm so scared," he said, mocking me. I walked away as soon as I saw a teacher enter the hallway. He came back over to me. "John, if you ever change your mind about us call me. I would just love to see you naked and ready to fuck," he said before I punched him square in the face and walked away. God, what kind of family were they from? I walked around the school, lost, without friends. I sat away from them in my classes. Michael would glance at me a few times during English, but I would pretend to not see him. Melissa was the same. At lunch, I caught Charlie staring at me and he mouthed the words “I'm sorry,” but I just flipped him off. He turned away, embarrassed. I was getting depressed, and by the beginning of the second week the teachers took notice of my mood as I was rude and curt with them. They must have said something to the principal because he asked me to come to his office. "Jonathan, I would like to talk to you about your behavior in class and about being class president." I nodded as I sat before him. "You see, there has been some concern about the fact that you have been very rude to some of the teachers. You've always been a good kid, so this behavior had to have been attributed to something. I made a few inquiries and I found out. Well, I know about your situation." "I wouldn't just call it a situation." "Well, I'm afraid that you might be hurt if you assume being class president. The people around here are very closed minded, and several parents have called voicing their concerns." "So you are asking me to step down?" "I'm sorry, Jonathan, I really am, but yes, I'm asking you to step down. It's for your own safety. I also wanted to let you know that this school has a policy on discrimination and, if you feel threatened, please let me know we can do something about it." I felt he was being sincere; It's just I felt that I lost. "Ok, Mr. Peterson. I'll step down." As I walked out of his office he called at me. "Jonathan, if it's any consolation. I have a gay son and I do understand what you are going through. I'm just concerned. If you need to talk to anyone, call me or come to my office. And, by the way, please refrain from hitting your fellow students. I'll let this one go, but I can’t ignore it if you do it again." I smiled and left his office. As I walked away from the office into the hallway, I slumped down on a locker. I started to cry. There was nothing left to do. They had won. The hallways had won. They directed the rumor missile straight towards me and made a direct hit. I was in shock. Meatball was malicious and, when she joined forces with the cheerleaders, they were a destructive force. They broke me apart, piece by piece. They were so strong that they turned the people I trusted the most against me. "Hey, are you alright?" somebody said, but I was too lost to care. "Hey Jonathan, talk to me." "What who are you?" "I'm nobody. Wait here, I'll go get my father." Some minutes later Mr. Peterson returned. "Jonathan, are you Okay?" he asked, but I didn't respond. I just didn't have it in me. "Craig, go get the nurse and ask her to call his parents." All I could think of was that he said the name Craig. He said Craig. A few minutes later the school nurse, Mrs. Jacobson, returned and crouched before me. "Jonathan, did you take your medicine today?" Before I could answer, I blacked out. I opened my eyes carefully and felt hands behind my head. "What happened?" "You had a seizure," the nurse said. "Are you alright?" Craig added. "I think so." "Okay then, I have to get to class. John, I hope you feel better later. Mrs. Jacobson, can you let my father know that I went back to class? Thanks. Bye John." That was Craig. That was my Craig. "John, I need to ask you a few questions?" I nodded mindlessly, but my thoughts were elsewhere. Craig was back. He had changed a lot, but I knew it was him. I knew he would be back. Mr. Peterson had been the principal of my school since we were in sixth grade, and then he switched to the high school when I came in as a freshman, but I never made the connection between him and Craig. "When was the last time you took your medicine? John!" she said, startling me. "John, when was the last time you took your medication?" "Last Friday." "Well, that'd do it. You have to take your medicine daily." "I know; I just forgot." "Okay. When was your last seizure?" "About a month ago," I answered. "Okay, that's about it. You can rest here until your parents come for you, okay? If you need anything, just yell for me; I'll be right outside," she said before leaving the room. I nodded and lay back on the cot. My thoughts reverted back to Craig. If he was here all this time why didn't he talk to me? Why did he stay away? I had to find out. Chapter Seven Mel pointed at a sofa she wanted for the apartment. "Do you like that one?” she asked. It was a floral print sofa, with red cushions. I quickly shook my head. "Why not? I think it's beautiful." "There is no way that is ever going to be in my apartment." "Okay, don't get your panties in a bunch." My mind was reeling with so many questions. I wanted to ask her about Craig. Was he the boy that stuck up for me when we were young? I wanted to know why we were still friends. I was angry at what I read. She stopped being my friend because of what that girl held over her head? Is that the reason nobody talked to me about Michael? "What about this one," she said, pointing at a hideous looking yellow couch. "No absolutely not. It's hideous." "Oh, you are so hard to work with." "I can’t help it if I don't want to buy a couch that looks like a giant yellow bean bag chair." She gave me a dirty look and proceeded to the back of the store. Somebody tapped me from behind. I turned to see a pretty girl around my age. "Hi John," she said as she gave me a hug. "It's so good to see you." "I'm sorry, but I don't know you," I said, thinking it was just another fan. "Oh John, I'm sorry. I was just so glad to see you. My name is Meghan. We were friends in High school. I saw you walk in, and I just had to talk to you." "Oh it's Okay. You just startled me a little." "I saw you on TV last night. You looked great." "Thank you. Do you live here in the city?" "No, I just came here to look for a job. I still live back home. You should come by more often We all miss you." I wonder how many is all. I haven't been home for a year. I had even spent Christmas alone, to the dismay of my parents. "I should," I said quickly to get her off that subject. To tell you the truth, I am afraid of going back there. That town holds too much. "Oh my god Meghan!" Mel yelled from behind me. "Mel, you're here too? Wow," Meghan answered. I watch as they share a hug. In some way, I feel left out. "How have you been? How is Craig? I haven't heard from him in a while." My interest quickly peaked. "He's fine. Better than he was." "Why, what happened to him?" I asked. "He went away for a while, and when he came back. H wasn't really the same." They always answer my questions with cryptic answers. Everyone thinks that I am not ready for the truth. It makes me angry. I just want answers. "I’ve got to go," I tell them. "John are you Okay?" Mel asks. "I'm fine; I just need some air," I get three steps away before everything goes dark. I have a seizure. The last one I had was months ago. This one is so bad that Mel had an ambulance called. I come to as they shove a cup of water in my face. "John, did you take your medicine today?" Mel asks. "Yes. Sometimes it just happens," I tell her, thinking back to the last chapter of the book I had read. "When was the last time you had a seizure?" one of the paramedics asked. "About three months ago," I answer, as the other paramedic helps me up from the couch. "Okay, I think you are ready to go. Just go home and rest and try to control your emotions a little. Sometimes they trigger the seizures," the paramedic says, as Mel helps me out to a taxi Meghan has waiting. "Okay shaky, come on, we'll go home. Meghan, why don't you come with us? I can make lunch for all of us." "Why don't we make it dinner? I have to go meet somebody. I'll call you," she said, as we pulled away. Mel held me as the taxi wove its way through traffic. I am still angry, angry with them and myself. I see a couple holding hands and again, the word love comes to mind. "Mel can I ask you a question?" "Shoot." "The other day at the train station I heard a musician playing a song. As he played, the word love came to mind. Do you know why?" "No I don't remember any song between you and Craig." My attention again was peaked. "Craig and I? I thought I was dating Charlie," I asked quickly, as her face turns white. She looks away from me and then asks. "John, when was the last time you talked to Charlie?" "I don't remember ever knowing a Charlie," as the words leave my mouth, it dawns on me. "What happened?" "I've already said too much. Trust me John I want to tell you a lot of things. I promised your mom to let you discover them by yourself. Don't be mad at me." I turn away from her to the window. Maybe she's right; its better if I get the answers for myself. I had my answers in my own words. We pull up to my apartment building. We step out of the taxi and as I pay the fare something forms in my mind. "Hey, Mr. Williams," Randy the door man, says opening the door for us. "Hi, Randy, how have you been?" "Oh just fine. Not better than you though. I see your pretty lady friend is here." "Yeah, it's looking up," I tell him as we enter the building. "Hey, we’re expecting a friend later on. Please let her up. Her name is Meghan." "Will do, Mr. Williams. Will do." He makes me feel better. He always does. All he knew about me was my name, and yet he always made sure to greet me. I was always polite to him. I had seen the other tenants be down right rude to him. Some have even complained that he talks too much. "He seems nice," Mel says as we step onto the elevator. "Yeah, he's the only doorman here I like. The others are really snooty." "You know, John, you've always had a huge heart. I know you think that I'm a jerk for not being your friend when Helene threatened me, but that was a really bad time for me." I can’t stay mad at her I knew deep down she was telling me the truth. "You need to read more of the book. It will all make sense, I promise." I smile and step off the elevator, grabbing her hand. "Okay. I'm not mad but you need to answer a question for me. Just one." "That depends on the question." "I need to know what Craig looks like." "Well you are in luck; I have a picture." In the picture we were standing together on the porch of a cabin. Craig was tall and he had curly blond hair. There were some people around us. Mel was in the background, hugging a bald kid. Everyone was smiling. I noticed Meghan was there too. "Mel, who are all these people?" "Well, Meghan is there, and that's Michael who I am hugging. I don't really know the rest of these people but they are friends of yours. That kid, I think his name is David, and that's his girlfriend. Her name is um, Shelly I think," she said, pointing at a couple who were standing next to Craig and me. "Craig is handsome." "No, he is hot." "You look like you were happy too. Why didn't you tell me you were dating Michael?" Her eyes begin to water. "Open the door John. I need to get inside." I let her in. She grabs my hand and pulls me into my room. She made me sit on the bed and hands me a copy of the book. "Here. Read," she says, and then pulls my feet onto the bed. She snuggles up next to me and pulls the sheet up over us. Chapter Eight From Hallway Hero The hallways have a sick way of redeeming themselves. I, at this point, had nothing else to lose. I had already lost everything. But, when I was down the worst, I found something to carry me through. Craig was here and he wanted to be with me. He wanted to heal my pain; he wanted to be my strength. But I wanted answers; answers he couldn't begin to give me. You see, as it turned out, getting to him was a challenge. I saw Craig later in the week. He was sitting next to a girl, and they were deep in conversation. I couldn't help but overhear what they were talking about. "No! Meghan I can't talk to him." "Why not?" "Because it's too late." "It's never too late. It's not like you had a choice in the matter. I can't believe you." She stopped talking when she saw me. "You can't believe what?" he asked before she pointed at me. "What didn't you tell me?" I asked. He looked at me for a long time, then he stood and walked away. "Hey, wait," I yelled as I tried to follow, but she stopped me. "What?" I said curtly, and she answered back "Listen, you have to have patience with him. He's had a hard time already." I snapped back at her, "What, and I haven't?" "No, I didn't say that. You have to let him tell you himself, and it's going to take a while." I watched as he made his way from the cafeteria. "Just give him time Okay? He'll talk to you," she said, before leaving me alone. "So, is that your new boyfriend?" Dominick asked, as he came near me. I could see Helene's vicious gaze focused on me from across the cafeteria. She was almost salivating at the Idea of getting back at me again. "Fuck off," I said, and left him there with a smirk. I really wanted to hit him again. The next time I saw Craig was after school as he headed for Mr. Peterson's office. "Craig," I yelled. He turned towards me. He looked at me for a while, almost as if he were taking me in for the first time in a long time. Then, just like that, he shook his head and walked away. I was crushed. He looked vulnerable. I just wanted to hug him. I wanted to kiss him. But most of all I wanted to know why. I wanted to know why he left. As the weekend came and went all I could think about was Craig. It was killing me inside that I didn't know. Monday morning I saw him again with that girl he was with before. He saw me, but quickly turned away. It made me angry, so I just kept on walking. I made it most of the way down the hallway when somebody yelled the word faggot at me. I heard a commotion somewhere behind me and then somebody yelled. I turned around to see that Craig was yelling at Eddie. "Why don't you call me a faggot? Come on Eddie." "Craig, shut the fuck up! This doesn't concern you." Craig looked furious. His nostrils flared. I noticed his fists close. I didn't like to see him like this. "Why, because you want to call somebody a faggot? You know what I know for a fact? What you and Charlie used to do after practice. Like you told my mother when we were twelve?" "Craig shut the fuck up," he yelled. I watched as they stood ready to fight.” What you gonna do, hit me? Don't you like to be called a fag?" Eddie lunged at Craig, tackling him down. Craig recovered quickly and punched him in the face. Eddie fell to the ground but came back up and punched Craig. Craig punched him back and threw him against a locker. Then he started hitting him. "How does it feel, huh? You know, I've been waiting for a long time to beat your ass. Ever since you told my Mom," he said before he hit him again. Told his mother what? I wanted to know, but the fight got worse when the rest of the dream team came in. They all jumped on Craig but, to my surprise, some other kids jumped in on Craig's behalf. A few minutes later the security guards came in and stopped the fight. Craig gave me an apologetic look. Then he said something to his friend before they took him away. It didn't hit me until later that he was fighting for me. I was walking away from the crowd and headed toward homeroom when I ran into Michael. I tried to walk around him, but he stopped me. "Hi John. How you doing," I could tell that he was nervous and for some reason he didn’t look good. "Peachy. Fucking peachy," I answered curtly. "John, I'm sorry." he said, but I just kept on walking. I didn't want to hear his shit. What, did he expect me to forgive him because he's sorry? I don't think that is ever possible. He hurt me and I couldn't forgive that. The friendship that we had was over now. Later on in the day I saw Michael again He was sitting with Melissa at lunch, and they were engaged in a serious conversation. He seemed pissed and she was crying. I just walked right past them. Melissa looked at me. I gave her a dirty look. She just shook her head. When I was seated at lunch, Craig's friend Meghan walked up to me. "Craig asked me to ask you if you would meet him after school, at the cliff." "Why? He couldn't ask me himself?" She got annoyed and leaned in closer to me "Stop being a dick and be there, okay?" The rest of the day went as expected. I saw Charlie as I left my last class. He was embracing a girl and the dream team, with the exception of Eddie, was all crowded around them. They all saw me and started yelling. "Whatcha looking at, fag? You want some of this?" I just kept on walking. Outside of the school, I saw Melissa waiting for a ride and I walked past her again on my way to the car. I didn't care anymore; they had betrayed me and they hurt me, all because they were afraid of Meatball. She ran after me. "John, wait. John, wait." "What do you want, Mel," I yelled. It felt strange calling her name. Almost as if it didn't fit anymore. "I want to say I'm sorry. I want to be your friend again. I want things to be the way they were." "I'm sorry Mel, but I don't think so," I said, and made my way to my car as she stood there crying. It pained me to see her cry, but I was determined to make them know how much they hurt me. As I drove to the cliff, I thought of every possible thing he might tell me. I was nervous. I saw him standing there as I reached the cliff. He turned to me as I stepped out of my car. He had a black eye. I felt bad. "Hey," he said as I approached him. "Hey, Craig." There were a few minutes of silence before he started to speak again. "I need to tell you some things, and I don't know how to start." "Just say what you need to say. I'm here to listen." "I never wanted to leave, John. My mother sent me away to a hospital. She thought I was sick. My cousin Eddie told her I was gay when I wouldn't do things with him, sexual things. I'm sorry I didn't tell you but I didn’t have time. My mother sent me away behind my father's back." He looked away to the ocean. He seemed in deep thought, but then he kept on talking, "I was there for three years. They used to torture us as a way to get us to change. They used to beat us and shock us and sometimes they would . . ." He stopped and looked away from me again. My heart almost broke when he started crying, but he kept on. "By the time my father found me, I was brainwashed. I would get sick every time I would look at a boy I liked. But it hurt the worst when I saw you again. I couldn't bear the pain. So I stayed away." By now I was crying. I wished I had known. I wished I knew the pain he was in. My pain no longer seemed valid. "I'm sorry, Craig." "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but I was ashamed. My mother told me I was a disgrace to our family. I just wanted for her to love me again. I thought I needed to go for her to love me," he broke down crying. "I'm sorry John. I'm sorry." I hugged him. "I know, Craig. I'm here. For the longest time I hated you, Craig. I used to ride my bike by your house wondering where you went and why you weren't back. It was hard knowing I lost you, but I built a shell and changed who I was just to make it easier to deal. Then everything turned to shit. They hate me because of that bitch Meatball and her cousin. Now I have you back. I can love you again." He smiled and hugged me back. "I love you too, John." We stayed there until it got dark, and we gained a new understanding and a new start on a relationship. That night I had a dream about us when we were twelve. We were running down the cliff to the beach. As we reached the beach, we looked like a pair of old men happily holding hands. We were inseparable after that night. Nothing fazed us, not even Meatballs constant harassment or the dream team's name calling. It was just perfect. Meghan and I became closer as the days went by. I trusted her. There was something about her face that made me feel safe when she was around. It was almost motherly. "Let’s make a fresh start, John. What we started with wasn't the most desirable way to begin a friendship. My name is Meghan. I am Craig's best friend. I would like to be yours," she said, extending her hand. I grabbed her hand and smiled. "I'd like that." "Cool, then I want to say this. I know Helene, and what she has on your friends is probably very bad. So maybe you should take it easy on them." "I hate them. I would never cower the way they did." "Are you sure? Because I know for a fact you dropped some friends because they got kicked out of your group." I never thought of it like that but she was right. "Maybe when there's time for me to heal, I'll try to talk to them again." "Yeah, maybe that's a good idea," She said. I thought about talking to them, but deep inside I couldn't do it. Mel would smile at me every time she saw me with Craig, and Michael still tried talking to me every chance he got. I also noticed something about Mel, Michael and Charlie; I never saw them together anymore. Charlie was another story altogether. He glared at me every time he saw me with Craig. He was jealous. I ran into him before English class. He was mad; he grabbed my arms and slammed me into a locker. "So is that your new boyfriend? Is that the Craig you said you would never leave me for, huh?" He yelled at me before punching me in the face.
  4. Part One: Synergy Prologue I smiled at Craig, the love of my life, before I stepped into my car. He was perfection wrapped in a pretty little packet that had my name on it. He loved me and that's all I could ask from him, but he gave me more. I waved as I pulled away from his driveway. A publishing company had bought my book and they were going to distribute it nation wide. I couldn’t be happier, as everything was going right in my life. On the way home I began to feel sick. “Shit,” I yelled, remembering that I forgot my medication. I always forgot to take it. I swerved as I began to shake, and then everything went black; I was having a seizure. A distant beeping sound awakened me. I was in a hospital bed. “It's hard to say Mr. Williams. We won't know the extent of this until your son wakes up,” said someone. I looked up at the five people that stood before me and I couldn't remember any of them, including the boy that was the love of my life. Chapter One Have you ever noticed how different the world looks from the top of a building? Everything is small, insignificant, and yet so full of life. People move in and out of cars and buildings, they shop, they talk and live out their lives as the clouds in the sky slowly move away and the sun takes away the light. It's so unlike my life; I stand still when everything moves. I stand before this great world. A world too great and menacing for me to exist in. I am a speck of dust, living a life I am not quite sure is mine. You see, I lost my memory. I am living my life in constant frustration. It scares me to think that, at any given moment, a foreign memory could enter my mind; the memories of the boy I once was. My agent puts three different contracts in front of me that he wants me to look over. These contracts sell the rights to my life based on a novel I wrote. The novel takes place during a miserable year I had lived through. I can't sign one of those contracts if I can't bring myself to read the novel. I don't remember that life. My agent, Arthur, wants me to sign away that life they say is mine. Who are they, you ask? They are everyone around me. The ones who look at me and only see the boy I was before. The two wonderful people that treat me like their son. They are the people who call themselves my friends. They are my fans, and my doctors, who constantly ask me to read the novel. I was told that my novel , “Hallway Hero” is based on the challenges I faced. The critics say that I am an inspiration. My fans say that my book speaks to those needing to be saved. I am tired of living my life through what I am told. Three movie studios want the rights to the novel. Two television stations want to make movies based on it. Another wants to produce a series inspired by it. At the same time, I am being sued. Someone I wrote about in the novel is claiming that I wrongfully portray him in my writing, and wants restitution. “These three contracts offer seven million a piece and a twenty-five percent share in DVD sales. I am going to recommend the first one to you. This contract offers ten percent of box office earnings,” Arthur said. I looked at him as he spoke. “This second contract states that you have the right to write the screenplay. If you decide that you don't want to write it, then you have final say on the screenplay they produce. However, the contract also states that they have the right to produce any future novels you might write. I don't think we should limit ourselves just yet.” Arthur; he wants to sell my life too. I am a prisoner of this novel. It owns me, and I find it so foreign. The words could bring truth to my life, but am I ready to receive the truth? “I need to think about all of this before I can say yes,” I say. He gives me a dissatisfied look. “John, this is going to make you a very wealthy young man. You cannot postpone it. At some point they will lose interest in your material. I trust that you are keeping your family and your future in mind. Look them over and call me with your decision.” “I am taking this seriously, Arthur, but I have to read the book first,” I said, shaking his hand. He smiled as he led me out of his office. I know he's going to call my parents as soon as I leave. The novel's jacket says, “This novel was written at a time when the author was at his lowest and the only release was in writing this book, writing his life.” The jacket also has a picture of me standing at a podium. In the picture I look happy. There is confetti all around me. My mother told me that it was a picture a friend took when I won the election as junior class president. It's all so far away from me. I walk out of the office building and I head towards the subway. I am no one here in New York City. Every day several hundred people see me. Nobody knows more than I do. Nobody seems to care. I like it that I am not important. I'm just another guy riding the subway, like millions of other people. Every once in a while I see a person reading the book. Some look at me, and then back at the dust jacket, and think that maybe, just maybe, it was me. Some are too shy to ask if I am that happy guy standing behind the podium. Some look at my somber face and see no trace of that boy. They turn away and feel silly for even thinking that I could be. I wait on the platform for the express train to arrive. Further down the platform, a street musician plays a tune I know I've heard before. It is somber and slow. I listen intently, wondering where I know that song from. The word Love comes to mind as he plays. Love, I thought as I rode the express to Lincoln Center. Why the word Love? There is a girl holding a copy of Hallway Hero. She smiles at me when she sees me looking at her book. “Have you read this book?” She asks me. I shake my head, saying no. “I love this book. I've read it three times.” “Wow, is it that good?” “Oh yeah. You should read it. Here, have my copy; I have another at home.” She hands me her copy. “Do you have a pen?” “Um, sure,” she says, looking through her purse. “Here, but why do you need a pen?” “So I can autograph the book for ya.” Her eyes open wide when she recognizes my face. “Oh my God, I can't believe it.” I make another fan happy. She thanks me a million times. I smile as I exit the subway train. She waves at me from the train's window and mouth's the words, “Thank you.” “Some people think that everyone's a celebrity,” says a man from behind me. I smile as he walks pass me. Before I know it, the store looms in front of me. It is one of those big bookstores. They have a huge banner advertising “Hallway Hero” as a “New York Times best seller.” I walk through the rotating doors. The store has three floors. I take the escalator to the top floor. There are copies of “Hallway Hero” everywhere. I grab a paperback copy from one of the tables and pay for it at the counter. There is a coffee shop on the second floor. I take the escalator down, and order a cup of tea and I sit at a table near the back, where I read my book. Chapter Two From Hallway Hero They were just hallways, hollow spaces that led the masses to their destination. They were the spaces in between that really shouldn't have mattered. In high school they matter a lot. They were the most destructive, sometimes offensive, important, scary, and fun few minutes of space you will encounter. I used to think that no one could take me down, that I was always one step ahead, and that I was untouchable. I was blinded by my own ego because at Lakeside High a whisper could destroy you. "I am afraid of a school that will never change and I am afraid to go to a school from which I will never learn. Why don't we make our education that much easier? I am the person to give you that. Do you need more time to get from class to class? I'm that person. Do you want more time to study? I'm that person. Trust in me to carry you through our junior year. Vote for me. I'm pathetic." I read from my speech. Michael was listening as I read. "So you care a little. How is that pathetic? Helene's going to shit when she hears your speech.” Michael said as we turned into the main hallway. "Look at me, every day I try something new. I join the student government, I do charity work, I help around the school and I’m on the basketball team. I'm trying to change something that I know won’t change. With all that I do, I have no time for my friends. Soon I won’t have any." "And what do you call me? I mean you have too many friends anyway." "I said soon, not right now, and you can never have enough friends." "Right, listen I have to go to peer mediation." "Why?" "They're thinking that me and Charlie Ireson are going to fight again because of that small argument we had in homeroom." "You mean that small argument where you almost hit him with a desk,” I said, remembering how mad they both were. It was like two roosters in a cockfight. Every one just slowly walked away from them. I had to pull Michael away before they killed each other. Charlie was always high strung anyways. "Hey, I was only deflecting anger,” he said, putting his hands up. "Well, just make sure you don't deflect your anger towards me.” This particular hallway I walk in is the Mecca for Lakeside High's social crowd. We practically own this hallway and nobody outside of our social crowd ever steps into it. We have rules and they are expected to be followed. We never walk over to the back of the school, where the skaters are, or to the bleachers where the punks are. The main hallway is ours and we never venture out of it. I approached a group of four guys I called the all American dream team. They are all the same person really. I mean they all play football, they have cheerleader girlfriends and they all live on the same block. They are all good people, just a little repetitive and completely predictable. "Hey John what's up," said Jason, they all followed suit. "Nothing much, just reciting my speech." "I can't believe you have the guts to do this. You know half the school hates you," said Eddie. "Yeah, they just hate me because I have what they want. Besides, the other half likes me and that's all that matters.” "Yeah, they're just assholes, but you know you got my vote," Terry said and they all followed his lead. "Cool, thanks guys, but I have to go practice my speech.” Several feet away from the Dream Team, amongst the cloud of body spray and squeaky talking, stood the cheerleaders. I loved them all, and they loved me. They are self absorbed, shallow, and conniving bitches, but that's what they were supposed to be. I mean they were cheerleaders. "Hi John!" They all screamed at me. "Hi girls. Keeping Up the good... uh cheer?" They all smiled as I approached them. “He's so cute,” I heard one of them say as I passed. “I wish he would just ask Mel out. She has it so bad for him.” I wonder if they know how loud they could be when they tried to whisper. “Girls! Girls! I am still within hearing distance from you,” I yelled back. They all giggled and continued with their conversation. I am well known by my fellow class mates. Some don't like me, and some worship the ground I walk on. To my social crowd I am just one of them; just another member of the popular crowd. It bothers me some that we have to use labels, but this is high school. I have to be honest with myself, it was easier. Nobody made fun of us, not to our faces at least, with the exception the punks, but who cares about them. We never had to go far to have fun and there was always a fair share of recreational substances. Not to mention the generous helping of girls. And, that is where my trouble lies. If you consider yourself a part of our crowd you have an image to maintain. There are three circumstances that will require you to leave the group. Number one would be to be labeled poor, number two would be to be caught socializing with a lower crowd and number three, and mind you this is the worst and the one I secretly suffer from, is to be called gay. All of these circumstances would most likely take place right here in the hallways of our high school. I walked further down the hallway, right by the preps and those that fall into our group by default because their parents are rich. Nobody particularly likes them, but they are part of our crowd nonetheless. They all waved at me and gave me thumbs up. "You guys are going to vote for me right?" "Sure," they all said in random order. "Thanks guys." I walked past them, noticing that one of the punks was mocking me while the others laughed. “What, you guys aren't voting for me?” I asked. I mean, what were they doing away from their bleachers? This was the social crowd’s hallway. I can't be put down by their stupidity, I have to stay positive. Today I am going to give my speech for class president, and I can't let them get to me. The auditorium is at the end of our hallway. Several of the drama kids stood by the door. Some snickered at me as I stepped inside. I ignored them and headed towards the stage. The auditorium was decorated with red, white and blue streamers and stars. I stepped on the stage and over to the podium. I hit a bottom and the microphone turned on. I tapped the microphone took a deep breath before I started reciting my speech. "I am afraid of a school that will never change, and I am afraid to go to a school from which I will never learn. Why don't we make our education that much easier? I am the person to give you that. Do you need more time to get from class to class? I'm that person. Do you want more time to study? I'm that person. Trust in me to carry you through our junior year. Vote for me. Vote for Jonathan Williams.” As I finish my speech someone in the back row started to clap. “Who’s there?" "I like your speech," the person clapping said. "Who are you?" I asked as he stepped into the light. "What are you doing here?" "Hi, Jonathan." "Do I know you?" "No." "Then how do you know my name?" I asked. "Well, you just said it at the end of your speech," he said, as he approached me. He was beautiful. If I wasn't so deep into acting straight so my whole social, educational, and personal life wouldn't collapse, I would be all over this guy like white on rice. "What are you doing here?" "I was sitting over there waiting for my cousin when you walked in. You looked determined to finish your speech, so I didn't bother you.” I barely heard what he said; his gorgeous green eyes had me transfixed. "Who is your cousin?" "Helene Mayer,” he said, causing me to freeze. Helene Mayer is one of the other candidates against whom I was campaigning. She had hated me since fourth grade, when I accidentally tripped over her at lunch and my meatball sandwich landed on her, forever labeling her Meatball Mayer. She is a total bitch. Or should I say the total bitch. I have seen her make freshmen drop out of school because they were terrified of her. "You are Meatball Mayer's cousin?" He looked confused. "Meatball Mayer?" he asked. "Yeah I guess I am." "So I guess I don't have your vote." "Now, I didn't say that." "So you are going to vote for me over your cousin?” "Well, technically I can't vote." "Why not?" "This isn't my high school. I would if I went here. I would always vote for a cute guy like you." I blushed a deep shade of red just as the auditorium doors burst open. Meatball stormed in with a disgusted look on her face. "I see you met the bastard. Don't talk to him Dominick; he's an asshole,” She bellowed from the back. "Bye Dominick, see ya later Meatball," I yelled, walking away. The anger that manifested on her face was a mixture of hate and outrage potent enough to burn the devil. “Fuck you!” she yelled back as I reached the door. Dominique grabbed my arm and put a piece of paper in my shirt pocket. "Call me later," he said. "I will.” Now, gossip is the single most destructive thing that could fly through the halls of my high school. It is like a heat seeking missile that is directed at you whether you like it or not. Luckily, I have not been the target of the rumor missile. I've had several friends who were targeted by gossip, and now they belong to other groups. It's just the way it is. I always see someone that was part of my group and who, for some mishap or other, was kicked out. It is a rule that is understood and respected. "Hey John," said Michael as I walk by the main office. "Hey Michael, how did it go?" I asked. "It went." "What do you mean?" "Well, I'm not supposed to talk about it, but he thought I was going to kill him for. . ." "For what?" "John, he's gay." "No shit! Are you serious?" "Don't spread that around. If you do, I'll get in trouble." "But he's the captain of the football team." "Yeah, and he can play. I don't care if he's gay; I just don't like him. He’s always talking shit about Mel. I mean, I didn't really mean it when I called him a fag earlier." "Are you sure you are all right with this?" I fished for answers. If he was alright with Charlie being gay, then he would be alright with me being gay. "Since when are you a homophobe?" "I'm not; it's just that he's the first to... you know? He's a part of our group.” I thought about myself and wondered how different it would be if Michael knew about me. "Yeah, just keep that quiet because it means my ass and if I'm going down you are coming with me." I nodded and we headed towards English class. I've always had a crush on Charlie. He was one of my fantasies every time I masturbated. I think about his long golden hair and his beautiful chiseled body. I rub my hand all over his body as I kiss him. In my fantasy we always end up on my bed, and I give him oral pleasure and then he fucks me. Then I fuck him. My fantasies take hold and I don’t notice the door, smacking hard into it. I bounce and hit the ground. "Hey are you OK?" Michael asked as he pulls me up. "You walked right into the door. That must be some speech." "Huh, what?" I noticed that I still had the speech in my hand. "Yeah, I'm just nervous." "Don't be you'll win." My English class was like a reunion of sorts for the juniors in our group. I always sat with Michael in the back and everyone piled in around us. Whoever wasn’t in our group sat in the front rows. "Hi John." said Melissa Browning. She's been after my ass for years. "Hi Mel," I said as I sat behind her. "Are you taking anybody to the dance?" she asked. I could see the yearning on her face. "You know, I don't know if I'm going." "Well, I would like you to go." "I'm sorry Mel, I can't." "OK but if you change your mind call me." "Sure, Mel." The student's began to pour in. Charlie walked in, sitting next to the cheerleaders and the dream team. I tried to keep my composure and I tried to ignore him, but he sat right next to me and said, "Hi john.”. "Hey," I replied, nervously. "Do you have a minute after class.”? "Sure but you have to make it quick. I have to give my speech." "It will be quick.” The class dragged on for what seemed like ten hours before the bell rang. I waited for Charlie outside the classroom. Several students greeted me, saying good luck as they left the class. Charlie was the last to come out. "Hey, let's talk in here," he said, before he pulled me into the classroom. "So what do you need to talk about?" I asked, secretly hoping that it didn't have anything to do with him being gay. "Well, I just wanted to say good luck with your campaign. You have my vote." "Thank you Charlie, but I don't think this is why you want to talk to me." "Well, John." "Charlie?" "I like you John." "I like you too." "No john; I mean like a boyfriend,” he said, leaning closer. I panicked. "I have to go do my speech,” I yelled before I ran away from him. Chapter Three The ring of my cell phone tears me away from the book. I flip it open. “Hello mom.” "Hi hon. How did the meeting go?” My mother asks. “It went well, but I'm not sure if I want to sign over the rights.” “Well honey, you do what you think is right.” My mother always trusts my decisions. “I can't do it, not without knowing what I'm selling.” “I can understand that. It's your life; I want you to be happy with whatever you decide.” My parents have been nothing but supportive through this situation. They never read the book out of respect to me. They said that I had asked them not to before my memory loss. After reading that first chapter I guess I'm kinda glad they didn't. “I just finished reading the first chapter.” “Oh john, that's great. I'm glad you've finally got around to reading it.” “Mom, I have some questions.” “I would imagine that you would.” “Well, I guess the first question is where is this guy Michael? It seems like we were good friends before. How come he hasn't been around?” She hesitates before she answers. “Well honey I think you should finish reading the book before we talk about him.” “Why, mom? I just want to know where he is.” “It's for the best dear, I promise. Sometimes you need to discover things on your own and not hear it from us.” “I see.” I am frustrated. I guess I understand where she's coming from. It's just that, when you don't remember a thing, you feed on all the information you can get. “In time john. Answers will come.” She tries to reassure me. “That novel will tell you, in your own words, more than I can tell you.” “Mom, I have to go. I have an interview tonight.” “OK honey. Please call Mel; she's in the city for school.” “I’ll keep in touch.” My apartment is a couple of blocks from the bookstore, I decide to walk. I moved here a year ago. It's easier than going back and forth every time I have an interview or a meeting with my agent. “Hi, Mr. Williams,” says Randy the door-man when I reach my building. Randy has been working here thirty five years and he says that I am the only one who ever says hello to him. I like Randy; he's the type of person that can bring you a smile every time you see him. Even when you have a bad day. “Hi Randy, how was your day?” “Just fine, just fine. A beautiful girl came by for you today. She said her name was Melissa and that she would be by later.” “Randy, if she comes by again please just send her up.” “Consider it done, Mr. Williams.” I live alone. It's a conscious decision I made for myself when I thought I needed to be alone. Now it's just a cold lonely place. Sometimes I feel like there is a void here, with room for more. My apartment reflects me, an empty shell. “You have three new messages. First message,” said the automated voice on the answering machine, after I press the play button. I listen for the first message: “Hi john this is Mel. I just got to the dorms and I was wondering if we could go out for dinner or something. If I don't hear from you before three, I'll come by your apartment.” The answering machine clicks, “second message.” “Hi John this is Mel again, I was at your apartment but you weren't home. Please call my cell phone. I'll try to contact you again.” The machine clicks again, “third message.” “John this is Arthur. Please read over those contracts. We have a conference with your lawyer on Friday. He wants to go over them, too, before we sign. And John, I trust you remember that you have an interview tonight. Call my office tomorrow for next week’s Schedule.” I walk over to my bedroom. I look over my wardrobe, picking out a shirt and a sports jacket. I also pick out an expensive pair of jeans with white sneakers. I take a shower and brush my teeth. The phone rings as I leave the bathroom. “Hello.” “Hi John. God you’re hard to locate. I've been to your house and your door man said you were out.” “I'm sorry Mel I had a meeting with Arthur.” “Anything to celebrate?” “I don't know yet.” “Oh, well, I just called to see if you wanted to meet me for dinner tonight? I know this little place that serves the best food.” “Oh Mel, I can't meet you.” “God, are you still avoiding people,” she says with annoyance in her voice. “No. Mel, I would love to meet you, but I have an interview at seven. Maybe you could meet me at the studio.” “Sure. I'll meet you there, I just have to get settled here then I'll head over there.” “I'll send a car for you.” “Great. See ya later.” The studio has an assistant show me to the green room. She makes sure I have everything I need, and introduces me to the host of the show. It would be an hour until I’d be interviewed on air. The green-room is crowded by several other people. One is a stunning woman that is yelling at her cell phone. She smiles at me as I pass her. I smile back; I think she is a movie star but I can't be too sure. There is also a man that I recognize from the news. He is a politician who is adamantly against gay marriage. I don't smile at him. He notices who I am, and immediately turns away. “Hey, I know you,” Says the stunning lady. “You wrote Hallway Hero right?” “Uh, Yeah.” I answer, embarrassed that I don’t know her name. “I love your book. It's great. I hear that they want to make it into a movie.” “I haven't signed on it yet.” “I understand they're always trying to screw writers out of their material.” “No, actually they have been very generous. I just don't know if I should sell my story when I can't remember it.” “Oh yes, that's right. You lost your memory. I forgot all about that. Well, don't let them get to you. You do what you feel is right.” “Thank you,” I say, noticing that the politician is looking at me. “Sure hon,” she says as she's called out to her interview. I sit in a chair by a window on the opposite side of the room from the politician. I pull out the paperback copy of my book and I begin to read. Chapter Four From Hallway Hero The crowd cheered as the winners were announced and the confetti flew. I was elected class president, to the dismay of the punks that booed as I walked on stage. I caught glimpses of Dominick; he sat next to Meatball, who wasn't happy with my being called for the president’s position. He smiled at me, and I waved back. Charlie stood near the back clapping. He just frowned at me. I felt bad, but what did he expect? I was standing before the entire junior class. Michael ran up on stage and gave me a hug. "You won, dude. I knew you could do it." "Thanks Michael, I was so nervous." "Yeah, I saw you,” He said smugly. "Shut up ass." Mel won the vice president’s spot. "I'm so happy we got elected,” she said, giving me a hug. “God, did you see Meatball's face when you won? Did you see her face when they called her name as treasurer? She was so pissed." "I know. I think she hates me more now than ever before. If that's even possible." "Aw, don't let it get you down buddy," Michael said, as we stepped off stage. Several students and teachers shook our hands as we made our way out of the auditorium. I nodded to Dominick as we passed him and his now furious cousin, Meatball, who was cursing something as we passed. "Listen asshole I hate you. You took away from me the last thing I wanted, but you’re going to pay. I'm going to be like your shadow from now on. So, if you fuck up, I'll be the first to know. Pray that I don't find out anything about you. You hear me, you little fuck? Pray, fucking pray that I don't find out any little secrets you might hide," she said with her finger in my face. A teacher saw her cursing at me and reprimanded her. "Hey, I'm sorry for my cousin. I never thought she would hate you so much,” said Dominick. "It's a long story really. I just never let it faze me." "She always takes it personal when she hates people. I mean she once beat me up ‘cause I got the game she wanted for Christmas. She still hates me. But she cuts me some slack because I'm family." "Wow, and here I thought that her evil was just directed towards me." "So would you like to tell me this story? Maybe over dinner?" Wow, this guy was forward. I really wanted to go with him, but I was being given the eye from Melissa and Michael and I had a party to throw, the host couldn't disappoint. "Um I can't, I kinda have plans with my friends tonight." He gave a grumpy look that was totally adorable. "OK maybe some other time just call me OK. I really like you Jonathan." "Thanks, I will. Bye, Dominick." I searched the auditorium for Charlie. I didn’t see him, so I headed over to my friends. "Who was that? He was cute," Melissa asked. "He's Meatball’s cousin, Dominick. He wanted to apologize for Meatball’s tantrum." "Really? You should have invited him to the party," Michael said. "I should have, but what would Meatball think? Hey, have you seen Charlie?” "No. I haven't seen him since English class," Michael said. "I saw him leave a few minutes ago,” said Melissa. “I think he went that way.” "Shit. I need to talk to him." Michael looked pissed. Melissa gave me a questioning look. "Why do you need to talk to him?" Melissa asked. "I think he needs someone to speak to." “I can’t believe you, John.” Michael shook his head and walked away. "What's up with him?" Mel asked. "Melissa I can't tell you, OK? But I think Charlie really needs my help. I’ll see you later at the party," I said, and I ran after Michael. "Michael, wait." "I can't believe you." "What?" "I told you to keep quiet about Charlie." "I didn't say anything." "Yeah, but just talking about him." "Mike, he told me he liked me." "He what?" "After English class he wanted to talk to me. He told me he liked me then he tried to kiss me." "Shit man what did you do?" "I just walked away." "Why, don't you like Him?" "Huh?" "John I know you like him. I mean you stare at him all through class." "Mike I'm not. . ." "What, you're not gay? You have the hottest girl in school practically on your nuts and you never try anything." "Mike I just like her as a friend." "Sure, and you weren't just literally jumping on Meatball’s cousin’s head back there." I was frustrated, scared and getting sick fast. "I need air." I jogged away from Michael and exited the building. It was coming and it was coming fast. I nearly reached the garbage can when it all came out. I hated vomiting but I couldn't stop it. I heard the doors slam behind me, someone held me as I threw up. "Let it go, you'll be alright," his deep voice said, as I vomited. When it stopped, he helped me over to a bench. It was Charlie. "Stay here. I'll go get water.” I watched him leave. He helped me, when I thought he needed my help. Michael and Melissa came out of the building. "What happened to you? You look like shit," Mel asked. “Nothing,” I said. “Here, drink this John,” said Charlie. He handed me a cup of water and held my head as I drank. "I saw him run out, and he looked sick, so I chased after him to make sure he was all right." The door burst open again and Meatball came out. "What's going on here? Is that asshole sick?" "Shut up Helene," yelled Michael and Melissa. "Hey, it's a free country. I just wanted to know if he was suffering.” She made me want to hurl again. I couldn't be there anymore, they were suffocating me. There were too many people to deal with, so I left. I ran to my car and drove shakily to the cliffs at the edge of town. It's the place I go to think, the only place I can be myself. When I was younger, I had somebody. It wasn't sexual or anything, but we knew it was special. We were just kids, but deep down we knew we were meant for each other. His name was Craig. Craig and I were inseparable; they used to call us the twins. What we had nobody could have shared. Everything would be different if he was still here. I remember how the sun reflected on the rocks every morning when we met here. Craig counted the seconds in between the waves as they crashed on the rocks. He said he was coming back in a year, and everything would be the same. He told me that when we were twelve, and I waited for a year, but he never came back. I even rode my bike by his house to see if he was there. I missed him; the thought of not having him back sent me to bed crying. I learned one thing from this; things will never stay the same no matter how much we want them to, no matter how much we try. He would never come back and I would never see him again. I recovered and somewhere down the line I guess I gave up hope. I met new people, made new friends and somehow I forgot about him. The pain he caused just faded away. If he would have stayed I'm sure I wouldn't be a part of the group I am now, but I'd be happy. "Hey I thought I'd find you here,” said Michael. "How did you know?" "You used to always come here when you were mad." "I hate living like this." "I know you do, but it comes with the territory. Trust me I know." "I remember when I used to come here and just be happy." "We can't always get what we want.” He said. “I mean I hate being popular just because my parents have money, but I don't let it bother me; I live my life. You need to live yours too; there is a guy out there waiting to be happy with you." "You brought him here?" "Yep, Mel is here too." "You told her?" "She doesn't care, she still likes you. Come on, we have a party to get to." I smiled, and we both headed away from the cliff. That time in my life was over. Maybe it was time for me to be happy. There was no need for me to come back to it. The memories of the cliff died that day. I drove with Charlie back to my house. We kept stealing glances at each other on the way back. The drive back was silent; we didn't want to ruin the moment. The comfort of having him there was good enough for me. The party was apparently in full swing. I was greeted at the door with kisses and hugs by my parents. Charlie smiled at me and walked inside; I followed. The dream team stood around each other drinking from cups I knew my parents hadn't provided. I made my way over there and grabbed Eddie’s cup. "What's in here Eddie?" "Just Coke." “Coke and a little additive, or should I say a lot. Just make sure your girlfriends drive," I said. They all nodded. I made my way around to the cheerleaders; I wanted to make sure they knew. They were all staring at some girl I'm sure they hated, who would soon be hit by the rumor missile. They all squealed as I approached them. "Hey John congrats. I knew you'd win," Amy said. "Thanks Amy." "Yeah, like God, did you see Meatball? She was like ready to go gun ho on your ass," Tiffany added. "Yeah she already swore death for me." "Don't worry, we'll take care of her for you," said Catherine. "Sure, and speaking of taking care of somebody, who's tonight's victim?" "Oh It's Sheryl Riley. She's been flirting with Eddie and I am going to teach that bitch whose man she's fucking with," Amy said in a very malicious manner. "Well, just take it easy," I never involved myself with their past-time I just let them indulge themselves. "Sure I will,” replied Amy. "Well girls I have to make my rounds so have fun; please look after your boyfriends until my parents leave. They're drinking." They all nodded and I made my way to Charlie and Mel they were sitting on lawn chairs in the patio. "So I hear that you might have a new love interest in your life." "I might." "Why do I always fall for gay guys?” Asked Mel. We all laughed. “I need to find myself a real man.” "Any prospects?" I asked. She looked over at Michael. "You know Michael Isn't half bad. He's kinda cute." We all laughed as she made her way towards him. "They are going to be a cute couple," Charlie said as we watched her hug Michael. "Yeah." "What about us? Are we a cute couple?" "Yeah I think we are. Come on let's go somewhere more private," I said. I spent a good part of the night just talking to him. The more we talked the more I liked him. He was funny, interesting and very adorable, I was falling for him. "So you had a crush on me huh?" Charlie asked. "Yeah a slight crush." "I used to follow you around in the hallways just so I could look at your ass," Charlie said. I. Blushed. "Stop your making me blush." "No, I'm not kidding I really do like your ass." "Well, I used to stay late after basketball practice to watch you shower." "I know and I used to take just a little longer. I knew you were looking." "So are you going to kiss me?" "Not until you brush your teeth. You vomited, remember?" I brushed my teeth and then we headed back to the party. Sometime at the end of the night, when everybody left, I took him home. I kissed him before he got out of my car, his lips were so soft. "Mmmm, minty fresh," he said as we parted. “You’re lucky I brushed.” I'm lucky I have you.” “God, you’re so sappy.” “Hey, better to be sappy than not having me at all.” “OK, it's time for you to go,” I said, shoving him out. “What had enough of me already?” “No just saving a little for later,” I said. I smiled and pulled away. It was a perfect moment, too bad someone was about to ruin it. The phone rang when I walked through the front door of my house. "Hello?" "Hi Jonathan, it's Dominick."
  5. Jonathan Williams was once the most popular kid in his high school. He had the best friends, the worst enemies and was poised to lead his class as elected class president. Now he's a best selling author of "Hallway Hero" a novel based on his life. A life he cannot remember
  6. A day late, Just wishing you a Happy Birtday. You will always be remembered. God Bless.

  7. Happy Birthday Green...God Bless You

  8. Wishing you all the best on your birthday. I hope where ever you may be. Nickolas is right, it's not the same here without you. R.I.P. my dear Green. See you on the flip side.

  9. Rest In Peace Green...I'm thinking about you today, on your birthday. It's not the same without you here and it never will be

  10. Guys give him a break. He needs his own life too. I know we all want a chapter but there is a million other stories out there to read. Go check them out. Look maybe he is dealing with some person things right now and the last thing he needs is all of us hassling him. It could only help to discourage him. GREEN
  11. Michael you are totally right in this. the kid is no longer staying with us. He's been moved to another home where they can help him better than I can. My mother was instrumental in getting him a good foster home. I know I should have spoken to chaz but when I saw the kid on the street I had to act fast. I had met his oparents on other occations and I know how evil these people could be. I called Chaz and I told him that I had to do it. I couldn't just leave the kid there. As for my mother taking him you are right she should have taken him but I didn't feel comfortable with the liar being there and all. He's not the greatest person to be introduced to, you know? David was away during all this but I did call him later on he said that it was alright with him. About me saying my house I thought about this. I need to work on this. It's just that I've been saying this since I was given the house. I really need to stop. I trust Chaz with everything it's just a matter of getting used to that. GREEN
  12. Hi guys I know Ive been a little silent for the last couple of days. I've been dealing with a lot these two days and it's left me very emotionally drained. I through some circumstances I cannot mention as it affects my personal and professional life have taken in a homeless teen of the street. He's was living in a park for two weeks until I was made aware of it by other kids. My friends are somewhat cautious and Chaz is treating me like I don't exist right now. I am being cautious trust me but I know this kid and he's a very good kid. He's just having a really rough time right now. His parents have kicked him out over some stuff they found on his PC. We can all relate to this I think. I called social services and the social worker told me that I should keep him here until they could find a stable environment for him. I feel for this kid so badly right now. Imagine going from having everything to losing it all with just two words get out. David, even though he's being cautious I can see the concern in his eyes every time he talks to the kid as his situation was exactly the same. My mother asked me if I needed help with this maybe she could get the state to let him stay with her as she is still certified to be a foster parent (she was a foster parent for five years) I told her that it might be a good Idea. Steve has been very good with him too. Selene is in Chaz's camp right now. They are being nice to the kid but they give me their cold shoulder. I slept in the living room last night. David came out and watched a movie with me for a bit. We talked for a while. I could hear Chaz walking around in the kitchen but he never came in. This morning he left before I could wake up to go to work but I felt him kiss me. This afternoon however he wouldnt even look at me. The kid's parents have made it clear that they do not want them anywhere near the house when i went to get his stuff. They told me the most hateful things I have ever heard spew out of anyone's mouth. I couldn't believe it. I was fuming inside I don't know how I didn't flip and start hitting someone. I've been living in a dream state and I don't know if I am even doing the right thing. I want this kid to find a permanent home. This kids is one of the brightest people I have ever met even though he's only fifteen I can see a bright future for him but seeing him broken down to the point where nothing matters anymore I feel like I need to help. All he needs is for someone to care for him enough to see him through. I know Chaz is angry at me right now but I have reassured him that I wouldnt bring anyone into my house if I didnt trust him in my house. I just want to help someone that needs it right now. So you guys tell me am I doing the right thing here? GREEN + COUCH
  13. Eww peuce! How could anyone go by that name? Not that I am judging anyone . GREEN
  14. I was at the library studying for finals.
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